Medical pot dispensaries cause for concern, says Toronto city councillor

Over the past year Toronto has seen a jump in the number of medical marijuana dispensaries popping up around the city. Dozens are open with most concentrated in downtown areas. But at least one city councillor says they're concerning.

Ward 20 Coun. Joe Cressy says all storefront pot dispensaries in the city are illegal

Medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif., Feb.1, 2013. (Jeff Chiu/AP/Canadian Press)

The growing number of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries in Toronto — many of which have set up shop in the downtown area over the past year — are a cause for concern, says at least one member of city council.

"These are — every single one of them — illegal," said Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20 in Trinity-Spadina and heads the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. 

"In order to be a provider of medicinal marijuana you need to be licensed and medicinal marijuana cannot be distributed through storefront locations," Cressy told CBC News Monday.

In Canada, medical marijuana can only be legally purchased by mail from licensed suppliers. That will change once the federal government legalizes and regulates the drug, but Cressy wants police to enforce the current laws. 
Coun. Joe Cressy says storefront medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Toronto and a cause for concern. (CBC)

Queens of Cannabis opened two months ago near Ossington Avenue and Bloor Street West. It sells more than a dozen types of marijuana, edible marijuana products and cannabis creams and sunscreens.

It doesn't have a licence, but owner-operators Brandy Zurburg and Tania Lungo have adopted rules that Vancouver put in place to regulate their cannabis dispensaries.

"We looked at ensuring that our storefront is visible from the outside, so anybody can walk by and see that there is nothing going on in here that shouldn't be going on and we do require a medical prescription," said Zurburg.

"We made sure to not be within 300 metres of any schools or churches or anything like that," said Lungo, who adds neighbourhood reaction to their store has been very positive.

"Within Toronto, the police are operating on a complaints basis. So unless there is a complaint against these businesses, the police may not act. We hope they will not be shutting these businesses down," said Lisa Campbell, a cannabis advocate who works with Toronto businesses and entrepreneurs within the marijuana industry. 

Campbell says they provide patients with much needed access to medication.

But Cressy worries that too many in one place will change neighbourhoods. 

"Just as if overnight we had 15 new bars open up, or as if overnight we had 15 new dispensaries open up, that changes the character of a neighbourhood, so that is a concern."


  • A previous version of this story said that Toronto city councillor Joe Cressy wanted to shut down all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, when it fact he said that they were illegal and a cause for concern.
    Apr 21, 2016 12:49 PM ET