Mississauga, Markham opt out of hosting retail cannabis stores

Two Toronto-area municipalities have decided not to allow bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores within their boundaries.

Privately operated pot shops are expected to open across Ontario next spring

Councillors in Mississauga and Markham voted Wednesday to opt out of hosting privately operated retail cannabis stores. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Two Toronto-area municipalities have decided not to allow brick-and-mortar cannabis stores within their boundaries.

Councillors in Mississauga and Markham voted Wednesday to opt out of hosting privately operated retail cannabis stores, which are expected to open across the province next spring.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie says the city feels there are too many unanswered questions on cannabis stores and the province has not given municipalities any control over where the shops would be located.

She says Mississauga may choose to opt in at a later date but wants to consult further with the community.

Markham's mayor, Frank Scarpitti, tweeted about the decision, saying councillors voted 12-1 to keep cannabis stores out of the city.

The province gave municipalities until Jan. 22 to decide whether they want to host cannabis stores. For now, cannabis can only be bought legally in Ontario through a government-run website.

Lot of stigma in suburbs, critic says

Lisa Campbell, chair of the Ontario Cannabis Consumer & Retail Alliance, told CBC Toronto she wasn't surprised but was still disappointed to learn that Mississauga, Brampton and other municipalities are not allowing cannabis stores.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of stigma in the suburbs still, but it means that Toronto businesses and other municipalities that embrace cannabis are going to see a boom in customers," she said.

Lisa Campbell, chair of the Ontario Cannabis Consumer & Retail Alliance, says she wasn't surprised but was still disappointed to learn some municipalities are not allowing cannabis stores. (CBC)

"Legal cannabis is a whole different industry. It's just as safe as walking into a liquor store and there's no reason why we shouldn't have dispensaries in our communities if we can have bars on every corner."

Campbell believes communities that opt out of cannabis stores will see an increase in black market activities.

"With no storefronts, it means people will just continue to access cannabis the way that they did," she said.

"There is the [Ontario Cannabis Store], they can order online, but unfortunately a lot of consumers aren't educated and without that storefront access they're not going to be buying legal cannabis."

With files from Kari Vierimaa