Scarborough MPP Aris Babikian has asked Toronto Mayor John Tory to restrict cannabis stores to industrial areas while he and other Progressive Conservative MPPs in Toronto push for tighter legislation from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).
Babikian, the PC MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt, doesn’t want any cannabis stores in his riding, saying that neighbourhoods are already suffering from the rapid influx of stores to the area. Since January 1, 2021, eight Retail Store Authorizations were approved in Scarborough, with 47 more applications at varying stages of approval.
Babikian and his colleagues are advocating for a review because they would like to have more control over where the stores are placed. Toronto decided not to opt-out of cannabis stores like nearby Markham did, however, the Mayor’s spokesperson said that the council had asked for the power to enact bylaws keeping cannabis stores a minimum distance from schools, community centres, and other cannabis stores. In the long run, that power stayed with the province and the AGCO, which Babikian would like to change.
In the meantime, he is encouraging residents of the area to file objections with the AGCO about upcoming cannabis stores, and the community has come through. One prospective store received 342 objections, including a petition from tenants in the mall where the store was to be located. Denis Lanoue, president of the Heathwood Ratepayers Association, told Toronto.com that their goal is to improve the area and that the application wasn’t in line with that vision.
High Tea Cannabis Co., the store in question, revoked its application soon after, telling Toronto.com that it had hoped to be a pillar of the community to help educate about cannabis and foster a culture of acceptance and it wouldn’t put a location where it wouldn’t be well received.
The bloat of cannabis stores in the Greater Toronto Area is a common criticism of Ontario’s cannabis retail industry, but Ontario continues to generate more retail revenue than any other province in Canada. In a free market system, the strongest stores will survive, so we may seem some stores closing or moving in the future.