The clock is ticking on Canada's plan to legalize cannabis.
On July 1, 2018, the federal government says it will implement Bill C-45 which will legalize marijuana, with the caveat that it is leaving the licensing, distribution and sale of the product to the provinces.
For its part, this fall Ontario announced plans to open stand-alone stores, run by an LCBO-like organization called the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. The province announced it was opening 40 stores by July 1, 2018 with one of those locations earmarked for London. An additional 40 stores would be opened by July 1, 2019, though it's unclear how many more London would get.
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People shopping at the stores won't be able to browse the aisles and grab what they want; instead there will be a behind-the-counter setup similar to how people buy cigarettes in this province. The minimum age to purchase and possess recreational cannabis in Ontario would be 19. Buyers in Ontario will also face limits on where they use marijuana, with a ban on use in public places.
While the province doesn't need permission from the city of London on where it chooses to put a pot shop, it has said it will work with municipalities' current policies and bylaws.
And so the city of London is scrambling to make sure those things are all up to date.
Here is the city's wishlist for a provincially-regulated pot shop:
1/ Protecting vulnerable populations
The city of London believes any pot shop should not be near facilities frequented by vulnerable populations. The city is concerned retail cannabis stores may attract drug trafficking, where adults who purchase the product could sell to minors. And so, it wants any pot shop to be a minimum of 500 m away from elementary or secondary schools, any municipal library, pool, arena, community centre or the Western Fairgrounds.
2/ Minimizing loitering around cannabis retail stores
The city suggests a main street location may more easily attract those looking to buy "black market" cannabis or other drugs, and that would make it harder for police to detect drug trafficking. City staff say "loitering is much less common and more evident in auto-oriented environments, typically making drug trafficking more obvious and more difficult." That said, the city still believes a pot store should be within a shopping area, near rapid transit, or within an urban corridor.
The city wants to ensure there is significant parking to service the retail store and to mitigate any negative effects on nearby neighbourhoods.
4/ Ensuring customers are not lighting up right outside the store
The new legislation doesn't allow for the consumption of cannabis in public, in a car, or in a place of work, but the city says it will be "important to ensure that sites are designed to minimize obstructed views that make casual surveillance, enforcement and policing difficult."
5/ Giving the public a chance to weigh in
The city wants the province to give members of the public opportunity to share their thoughts about the location of a retail pot shop. It also wants any retail store to work with members of nearby communities.
The city's planning and environment committee is taking a step toward asking the province to open five pot shops in the London by July 1, 2018.
Coun. Jared Zaifman introduced the amendment to the current staff report, addressing a wide range of concerns including the geographical location of the shops.
Zaifman said, by having more than one pot shop in London, the city would be able to better regulate the product and tackle current illegal dispensaries.
"If we have more stores in our community then we can have eyes on and we can see what's happening at these stores and it gives us more of an opportunity to regulate that and make sure it's done in a safe way."
He also raised economic benefits, with more shops hiring more people.
City staff clarified that the current proposed staff report doesn't limit the number of possible facilities, but outlines recommendations of locational requirements. City staff said there would be 300 eligible sites for storefronts in London.
At the end of the day, it's up to the province to decide the number of stores and their location.
City councillors will vote on the list of recommendations, as well as the committee amendment at council next week.