Mississauga will lift its ban on cannabis stores, councillors decided Wednesday afternoon.

The motion, approved during Wednesday’s council meeting, follows a lengthy debate at Mississauga City Council over whether or not to lift the ban. Councillors voted 8-4 in favour of the motion.

When cannabis was first legalized in Canada in 2018, the City of Mississauga opted out of the retail sale of cannabis due to concerns around lack of municipal oversight and the possibility of “clustering” stores. Mississauga took a “wait-and-see” approach to retail legalization, choosing to watch how the market performed in other municipalities before opting in themselves.

“Clustering” has indeed been an issue in other municipalities, particularly Toronto, though proponents of legalized cannabis storefronts in Mississauga say the issue has “self-corrected” in those markets since 2018. Under provincial law, municipalities do not have any input on the locations of cannabis stores, other than a minimum of 150 metres between storefronts. There is also no cap on the number of licences that can be granted in a particular area.

As well, illegal cannabis stores have cropped up in Mississauga, storefronts which have by and large gone unpoliced. The total ban on legal cannabis stores has “led us to this point where we only have illegal stores,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie on Wednesday morning.

Proponents of lifting Mississauga’s ban on cannabis retail stores say legal storefronts “will make illegal cannabis stores less attractive,” and will keep cannabis business local, rather than driving it into neighbouring cities.

In a statement, representatives for OCS said they support Mississauga's decision to lift the ban, saying the choice "marks a major step forward as the cannabis industry continues to evolve within the legal framework."

During Wednesday’s deliberations, invited speakers and city councillors discussed the effect of retail legalization on various groups of cannabis users, including young people, the elderly and racialized groups. Invited guests included existing cannabis retail store owners, local religious leaders and community leaders.

“My knowledge of cannabis is it mellows people out, so there’ll be fewer stunt drivers,” joked city councillor Carolyn Parrish on Wednesday.