Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards releases recommendations for cannabis legalization

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

The City of Toronto’s division of Municipal Licensing & Standards (ML&S) released their recommendations to the city for cannabis legalization today. The announcement includes support for Ontario’s own announcement last Friday for their plans for an LCBO-run retail cannabis system, both in stores and online.

Staff say they have put together a working group to identify municipal concerns with the implementation of cannabis legalization, including Municipal Licensing and Standards, Toronto Public Health, City Planning, Toronto, Fire Services, Toronto Building, Corporate Finance, Toronto Police Service, City Manager’s Office, Economic Development and Culture, and Legal Services.

According to the report, the Board of Health (BOH) adopted recommendations for the provincial and federal governments to consider as they develop and finalize legislation to legalize cannabis. They agree with the province’s approach to managing distribution and sales through a publicly-operated retail model as being the best model to carefully manage and oversee the new program.

The staff report says that 139 illegal storefronts have closed since spring of 2016, and investigations have resulted in 121 charges against property owners, 276 charges against business owners, and 214 charges against employees, for a total of 611 charges to date.

In the report, the Executive Director of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing & Standards recommends that city staff endorse the Province of Ontario’s plans and that City Council request the Province to work with the city the Toronto Police Service to develop “appropriate enforcement strategies,” including “provincially funded and/or provided enforcement” to support efforts to eliminate illegal cannabis sales. It also recommends the city ensure it is properly funded to manage this and other aspects of legalization.

In order to deal with unlicensed retail cannabis stores, ML&S also recommends increased fines and penalties for illegal cannabis sales and increased police authority to shut illegal businesses down.

The report also notes that ML&S was tasked with looking into how to manage the proliferation of illegal dispensaries over a year ago and has been studying the issue extensively. Despite enacting various inspection and enforcement approaches, including seeking court injunctions to close dispensaries down, the ML&S says approximately 60 businesses remain open.

The staff report says that 139 illegal storefronts have closed since spring of 2016, and investigations have resulted in 121 charges against property owners, 276 charges against business owners, and 214 charges against employees, for a total of 611 charges to date.

City staff have also engaged with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to discuss their concerns with legalization. The FCM is scheduled to present to the Standing Committee on Health this week to discuss legalization and municipal issues, and has put out a Cannabis Legalization Primer to help municipalities manage cannabis legalization at the local level, looking at issues like bylaws, zoning and business practices, among other things.

Concerns with the cost of managing legalization are common among municipalities in Canada, with the bulk of enforcement expected to come at the local level, especially in relation to existing illegal retail stores in major cities like Toronto.

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