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City wraps consults on pot store sites

Convenience and safety for vulnerable populations stand out as key topics during discussion

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The City of Oshawa has concluded its public consultation efforts to gain further insight from Oshawa citizens on just where they think the best locations should be for the incoming Ontario Cannabis Stores.

The process included an online survey as well as a public meeting where several members of the community and marijuana advocates appeared to share their thoughts.

For the most part, members in attendance agreed that the province should be sticking to municipal zoning regulations when it comes to locating its future cannabis stores.

In early 2017, the province had released the names of a number of municipalities that would be the homes for future cannabis stores. However, it wasn’t until December that they released the full list of 29 cities that would be the homes of 40 Ontario Cannabis Store locations, including locations in Oshawa, Ajax and Whitby.

As it stands now, under Oshawa’s zoning, a cannabis store would fall into the broad category of a retail store, permitting various location options for a future shop. However, where the city can run into problems is when such locations are near schools or other potentially vulnerable populations or organizations.

With that said, the province has released a set of draft guidelines for the site selection process of the cannabis stores, which note that along with adhering to municipal bylaws, it will take into consideration proximity to schools, equitable access for customers, illegal storefront activity, and other relevant information provided by municipalities.

These guidelines did not receive strong praise from Mayor John Henry.

“When you read the entire report it is so vague that I’m not sure how our bylaw staff would be able to enforce any of this,” he says. “We’re stuck enforcing rules that haven’t even been written yet.”

The issue was among many the mayor addressed during the public meeting at the end of June, adding that the province has left the municipalities pretty much on their own.

“The government has been so set on bringing this forward the way they have that they haven’t given municipalities options or tools to deal with this,” he says.

However, with the number of criteria for locating these stores, Marko Ivancicivec, the owner of Green Valley Wellness in Whitby, which provides consulting on all things cannabis, says that it’s going to be hard to please everyone.

“I think we all understand the dynamic of Oshawa and how location is a very difficult thing to work with,” he says.

So far, the city has shown little in the way of preference for where they would like these stores to go after legalization in October.

As it stands, a previous city report recommended that these stores should be located within large shopping centres where adequate parking is provided, and should be located on arterial roads with good access to public transit

The Region’s health department has also stepped forward and has recommended a few additional items for the province to consider when thinking about locating their legal weed shops, in particular, considering their proximity to such things like child care centres, post-secondary schools, LCBO stores, casinos, healthcare facilities, long-term care homes, recreation centres, and “high priority neighbourhoods where there is a higher degree of crime or higher socioeconomic disparity.”

As it stands, the province has released the locations for the first four Ontario Cannabis Stores, with addresses in Guelph, Kingston, Toronto and Thunder Bay. More locations are to be announced in the coming months.