The licensing committee voted 4-1 Monday in favour of city staff recommendations endorsing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan to sell marijuana only in government run, LCBO-type shops across Ontario after federal legalization takes effect next year.
The vote also endorses a call for Ontario to cover any city costs associated with the end of pot prohibition, and new legislative tools, including stiffer penalties for operators of illegal private shops and possibly businesses where people consume pot. The province wants consumption to be legal only in private homes.
That could mean pot legalization would trigger crackdowns on pot-friendly businesses such as Hot Box, a Kensington Market lounge where people have openly consumed their own marijuana since 2003 — vaping inside, smoking outside — along with medically minded dispensaries and the pot-selling shops that recently proliferat
Jodi Emery, a prominent marijuana legalization activist and former Toronto dispensary operator, said the provincial plan sells out people who suffered to end prohibition. She accused the province of listening to big business and law enforcement that will benefit from tightly regulated legalization.
“The city of Toronto has failed their citizens and taxpayers and will continue to fail them if they proceed as suggested at this meeting,” she said.
Tracey Cook, the city manager in charge of licensing, defended the provincial proposals.
“This is a significant culture change for the country,” she told the committee. Legalization “needs to be done in a cautious and deliberate manner because public health and public safety in particular, the health and safety of our youth, is not something to be entered into lightly.”
Most committee members agreed.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker said legalization should have happened years ago, and applauded the activists for getting change, but predicted they will be well-served by government-run shops. Users will get lots of varieties and good advice from shop staff, he said, like “this one goes good with Twinkies.”
The dissenter on committee was Councillor Jim Karygiannis. He accused city staff of failing to properly consult the local pot community and said people who use marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments will be hurt by provincial rules on where they must buy and consume.
“We’re going to bend over and the province is going to tell us how they’re going to do (legalization), where they’re going to do it,” he said.
The committee’s recommendation will go to full city council, which has final say.