Licensing committee backs government’s pot plan as activists demand rights to marijuana lounges
Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Monday, September 18, 2017 10:57PM EDT
A city committee has backed the province's pot plan to keep marijuana limited to government-run locations despite pleas from local activists pushing for the legalization of marijuana lounges.
Toronto's municipal licensing and standards committee spent much of Monday discussing the legalization of pot lounges in Toronto – businesses that do not sell marijuana but provide a space for people to consume it – ahead of the legalization of marijuana in Canada next July.
The committee voted 4-1 to follow the provincial government's lead, not only denying businesses the permits but supporting stiffer penalties for businesses that allow people to smoke pot on their property.
The owner of a Toronto pot lounge, Abi Roach, spoke at the meeting stating why she believes businesses like hers should be regulated.
“The city of Toronto is a city of renters, a city of people who live in shared dwellings, now more than ever,” Roach said after the meeting. “These people cannot consume in their rental units, they have children, they have elderly people living with them.”
But one councillor said marijuana smoking shouldn't be treated differently than cigarette smoking.
“We don’t allow it in commercial establishments, we don’t allow it in offices, we don’t allow it in restaurants so any person who smokes a cigarette or cigar today could give me the exact same argument. If you want to smoke marijuana, smoke it in the privacy of your own house,” city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker told reporters outside the meeting at City Hall.
Speaking with CP24 Monday evening, Mayor John Tory said along with the regulation of pot lounges there are many unanswered questions that need to be addressed ahead of the legalization of marijuana.
“The whole concept of some place like that (pot lounges) that’s licensed like we do with alcohol was something that we should listen to these representations on,” Tory said. “Only because the provincial government is the one that has said that you can’t smoke marijuana here and you can’t smoke marijuana there because it’s smoking.”
Tory said while he supports the legalization of marijuana, there are still boundaries that need to be put in place.
“I’m in favour of legalization, I’m in favour of strict rules that limit access to young people and that make sure that neighbourhoods are kept safe from all these pop-up dispensaries that are all over the place," Tory said.
Customers of government dispensaries 'traitors'
After attending the city hall meeting, cannabis activist and self-proclaimed “Prince of Pot” Marc Emery said the people of his “pot community” will not “reward” the government of Ontario by purchasing cannabis from their regular stores.
“The government is our enemy and they have always been our enemy,” he said. “Anybody who buys at a government store will be considered a traitor. We will identify those people who shop at those stores. We’re going to identify the employees.”
Emery also used the Second World War as an analogy, likening pot users to Jews and the government to Nazis.
“Those people will not be able to keep those jobs, we’re not going to let our people shop at those government stores, and it’s never going to happen. That would be like Jews rewarding Nazis for the Holocaust – it’s not going to happen.”
Furthermore, Emery said the government has it all wrong when pursuing the legalization of marijuana because “none of them smoke pot.”
“They’re clueless,” he said. “They have no idea the struggles we have endured for 50 years.”
After the meeting, Emery’s wife, fellow pot activist Jodie Emery, said the government’s approach to legalizing marijuana is “very disappointing.”
“All of the taxpayers in Toronto and Ontario are going to be forced to subsidize more costly law enforcement that restricts and limits access which the courts required the government to provide so I don’t see why the city is looking to restrict the ability of businesses to create jobs and revenue and rather wait on the provincial government and federal government to provide stores that are years and years away,” she said.
Ontario became the first province to announce its plan for the sale and distribution of legalized pot on Sept. 8. It was announced that the sale of legalized marijuana will be done through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario in a similar manner to how alcohol is sold.
The legal age of purchasing marijuana at these locations will be 19 and this pot must be consumed only in private residences.
The province says 40 of these stores will open by next summer following the July 1, 2018 legalization date. The province has said it will continue to crack down on illegal dispensaries as they will continue to be illegal after July.