Council voted on Thursday, December 13 to allow private cannabis stores in Ottawa under the rules of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Under the new Cannabis Licence Act, 2018, Ontario municipalities that want to opt out of cannabis stores must pass a resolution by midnight on January 22, 2019.
See also: Report on Ontario Cannabis legislation
What are the benefits of allowing cannabis stores in Ottawa?
- Providing a legal retail market is the best option to divert sales from the illegal market and keep products out of the hands of youth.
- Cannabis consumers will have access to regulated and quality-controlled products, clear information on products available within stores and trained staff who can answer questions.
- Private cannabis stores will provide a significant boost to the local economy and create new opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.
- The City will have access to additional funding and services from the Province to offset the costs of cannabis implementation.
Where would cannabis stores be located and how would they be run?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is responsible for regulating and enforcing cannabis stores, including approving their locations and operations. While Council and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on applications for cannabis stores, ultimately the commission will decide if a cannabis store can open.
Private cannabis stores may not be located within 150 metres of a school as defined in the Education Act, but are otherwise permitted in all areas zoned for retail use.
The Province has indicated that cannabis stores:
- Must be stand-alone stores, meaning they cannot be located within a larger store.
- Must be enclosed by walls separating it from any other commercial use or activity.
- Cannot be entered or passed through to access any other commercial establishment or activity, other than a common area of an enclosed shopping mall.
When could cannabis stores open in Ottawa?
Cannabis stores can open on April 1, 2019.
What is the economic impact of allowing cannabis stores in Ottawa?
It is estimated that the value of the legal cannabis market in Ottawa could be between $50 million and $200 million annually, based on the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s 2016 analysis and projections.
What is the economic impact of not allowing cannabis stores in Ottawa?
The local economy will not see any of the benefits of legalizing a market worth up to $200 million annually. By not allowing the stores, the City would lose access to the $40 million in provincial funding allocated for cannabis legalization. It is estimated the City’s portion of this funding would be approximately $2 million.
What were the results of the public consultation?
- Between October 25 and November 7, the City commissioned EKOS Research Associates Inc. to conduct a random sample telephone survey to assess city-wide support for retail cannabis stores.
- Public input was also collected through a voluntary survey, accessible on ottawa.ca and in City Client Service Centres. This survey attracted more than 23,000 responses, the most ever for a City survey of this kind.
- The same questions were asked in the two surveys and were developed in partnership with EKOS Research to avoid creating bias or influencing opinions of respondents.
- Public input gathered generally supported the presence of private cannabis retail stores in Ottawa.
What other changes in cannabis legalization are coming?
Early in 2019, we will consult with residents about the City’s smoking by-laws. Later in the year, we expect to see new regulations around edible products. Cannabis legalization is a major change in social policy and we can expect adjustments over several years. We will continue to consult with residents as we navigate this changing landscape.
What will the City do to ensure youth cannot access cannabis?
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will enforce age requirements for buying cannabis. The Province established 19 as the minimum age, and youth under the age of 19 are not permitted inside cannabis stores. It is a criminal offence to sell cannabis to youth and the Ottawa Police Service will conduct enforcement with provincial authorities when required.
What will the City do to address crime around cannabis stores?
The City does not expect legal cannabis stores to have the same problems associated with illegal dispensaries. The Ottawa Police Service and the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario recommend cannabis stores as a tool to reduce organized crime and associated street crimes.
What will the City do to address cannabis odour around stores?
The City does not expect cannabis odour to be a significant issue around cannabis stores. The stores will be regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s standards and will be subject to the Building Code, Fire Code and Property Standards by-laws. Issues regarding smoking in public places, including outside of cannabis stores, will be addressed through enforcement of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act or applicable City by-laws, depending on the location.