In response to the criticism from cannabis retailers and municipalities alike in Ontario, an NDP MPP is doing her best to give Ontario municipalities more say over how many cannabis stores can open in a given place. Despite the unlikelihood of a private member’s bill passing in a majority government, this bill (Bill 29) has already passed its first reading.
Permission from Municipality
Marit Stiles, NDP MPP for Davenport, a neighbourhood just northeast of downtown in Toronto, proposed the bill last year after learning how businesses and citizens in her riding were suffering.
Bill 29 proposes, “In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Registrar shall consider a resolution of the council of the municipality, in which are located the premises for which a person makes an application for a retail store authorization, as proof of the needs and wishes of the residents of the municipality…”.
This essentially calls for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to take a resolution of a municipality’s council into consideration when approving an application for a cannabis store in that municipality. It wouldn’t apply retroactively, though.
Taking it to Legislature
After legislature was prorogued last year, all private member’s bills were thrown out, so Stiles retabled the bill in this session and she is optimistic that it can cross party lines, hoping that it can be passed along with Bill 13, the omnibus bill supporting small businesses in Ontario that will, among other things, allow private stores to deliver.
Recently, Bill 29 passed its first reading before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario (LAO), and Bill 13 just passed its second reading.
“Cannabis is legal in Ontario and should be accessible to the public,” Stiles told the LAO during the first reading of Bill 29. “The bill simply aligns the licensing process with that used for liquor licences, giving more weight to municipal voices in considering where and how many licences should be awarded in a given area, in line with their own planning and community priorities.”
MPP Stiles is sure that this bill can help customers, retailers, and municipalities and hopes that the issue can cross party lines to gain support along with Bill 13.
“I am sure that each and every one of you have heard that communities want to have a say where the retail of cannabis is happening,” said NDP MPP for Humber River—Black Creek Tom Rakocevic during the most recent debate over Bill 13 when Bill 29 was mentioned. “I hope that this government is listening and will give municipalities power and choice to be able to decide where these will be.”
He went on to implore the majority government to listen to residents, as this is not the first time this issue has come up. “They have strong voices. They have an opinion. Listen to what they have to say. They know what they’re talking about.”
Frustration with the way the cannabis industry is run in Ontario is not new to those of us in the industry, however, Progressive Conservative MPP for Richmond Hill Daisy Wai sums up well what we all expected. During the debate for Bill 13 on October 28, after being asked if she would support Bill 29, she said, “Honestly, cannabis is not something that our province initiated and wanted to do. It was introduced down to us by the federal government and we’ve been taking it on, and that’s why this has developed into today.”
She goes on to say, “Our focus right now is not on the cannabis businesses, but rather on supporting the overall business development…”
If you ask any Ontario retailer, they would say that’s fairly obvious. This summer, acting CEO of the AGCO David Lobo spouted the popular Conservative refrain that the market would take care of itself, but at what cost to hopeful entrepreneurs?