Toronto Pushes Discussion on Dispensary Licensing to October

Cannabis advocates voiced their disapproval as the Toronto Licensing and Standards Committee pushed the debate on dispensary regulation into the fall.

Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said it’s the federal government’s responsibility, not the city’s, to deal with cannabis issues.

“I do not want dispensaries coming up at every corner of each of our communities, and I think the federal government needs to step in,” Mammoliti said. “Until the federal government actually legalizes marijuana, municipalities are not in the position of legalizing them, and that’s what people just don’t understand.”

The committee requested an executive director report to come back to the group by Oct. 25 to include the federal government’s upcoming changes to Health Canada‘s medical cannabis program, which are expected to be revealed by the end of August.

Advocates from the cannabis community shouted out against the decision.

“To say that Toronto can do nothing on this issue is to say that Victoria, Vancouver, and Calgary are better run than the City of Toronto because they have figured out a way to do it,” said one attendee at the meeting.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who held a press conference before the meeting to denounce the raids against dispensaries, was the only vote against the deferral, and said the city needs to end the costly actions against the shops as soon as possible.

“We have to go back to the drawing board…stakeholders have to be at the table to discuss and have a rational approach on how to move forward,” Karygiannis said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory previously asked the committee to investigate dispensary licensing and conduct a “review of the current operations of marijuana dispensaries,” to provide a potential framework for regulation of the businesses.

“We respect the federal government’s decision to legalize possession of marijuana for non-medical purposes. Going forward, the city has a responsibility to ensure this emerging industry operates responsibly, without a negative impact on the health and safety of our residents and neighbourhoods,” A letter from Tory to the committee read letter.

This morning, after a meeting with Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, Tory said that it was unacceptable for the city to sit by and do nothing while the number of dispensaries continue to grow. 

“We felt we had to take some action to investigate licensing, which is all that is going on,” Tory said. “I sort of similarly asked the law enforcement officials if they could take a look at what they thought they should do, but obviously understanding that I have no control over that.”

Last week, Toronto police raided another four dispensaries in the city, arresting 23 people.