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Should there be a limit to cannabis store numbers?

A provincial politician in Toronto wants to help municipalities have more control on the number of cannabis stores in neighborhoods, and introduced legislation that she says would benefit not just cannabis store-weary residents, but also retailers, consumers and neighboring businesses, reports the Toronto Star. More than 1,000 stores have opened in the province, with many concentrated in the same urban neighborhoods. 

“Even before the pandemic in some areas of the city … there was really becoming quite a concentration,” she told the Star. “When the pandemic hit, it became even more apparent.”

The proposal

Bill 29 doesn’t prescribe an ideal number or minimum distance between stores. Instead, it would make cannabis store regulation align with the way liquor stores are regulated, partly by municipalities — which would help existing cannabis stores succeed long-term.

The early bird’s evasive worm

Initially, a very limited number of store licences were awarded through a lottery. But those lucky few who were able to secure a licence in the early days have experienced the rewards they’d hope. Instead, the province began licensing an unlimited number of applicants, without any oversight on locations or numbers. Flower Pot Cannabis owner Sasha Soeterik said the legislation has come too late to help her business, which has seen multiple competitors pop up nearby.

“We should have been looking at this four years ago,” she said, adding criticism for the surprising and evolving ways the provincial government has approached licensing. “Where were they three years ago when I signed a lease here and (the) government changed their minds and announced the lottery?”

What’s next

Private members’ bills don’t often get passed by majority governments. But Stiles hopes this legislation — which was introduced last year before being wiped when legislature was prorogued — will cross party lines. She also hopes it can be added to Bill 13, an omnibus bill that would make delivery permanent for retailers. 

“We want a healthy, thriving industry,” Stiles said.

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