The rapid growth in the number and location of licensed cannabis stores continues to be a major frustration among Hamilton city councillors.
Several councillors, who spoke out during a meeting on Wednesday, remain upset about proposed and approved locations in residential areas, and in the vicinity of schools and daycares, from Stoney Creek to Ancaster.
Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins notes that pot shops are provincially regulated, with the only requirement that they open more than 150 metres from a school.
Collins is appealing to local members of provincial parliament to, “at a minimum,” use their platform to raise the concerns of the municipality and its residents while in the provincial legislature.
Collins adds that Hamilton’s MPPs have been “absolutely silent on this issue,” which he says tells him “the cannabis lobby industry is alive and well at Queen’s Park.”
The latest council debate follows Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) approval of an application at 11 Hatton Dr. in Ancaster, which Coun. Lloyd Ferguson has been fighting for several months.
Ferguson argues that the now-approved location is within a former variety store, where “two school buses unload and load” and “dead centre” in a residential area.
Ferguson says residents are “apoplectic” about the decision, which he contends is contrary to the public interest.
Flamborough-Glanbrook Conservative MPP Donna Skelly believes her government has taken “the right approach” to licensing Cannabis stores.
She argues that if they are not placed where consumers want them, you would see a reoccurrence of illegal cannabis outlets in Hamilton.
Skelly adds that restrictions are in place on operators to “protect children and the community.”
Jason Thorne, Hamilton’s general manager of planning, agrees there’s not much the city can do to control the location of licensed cannabis stores since the provincial government denied a number of requests made by the City of Hamilton when it agreed to be a host city in 2018.
City council’s requests, at the time, included the power to use licensing as a means to regulate distribution and overconcentration of dispensaries and to require broader separation distances from sensitive uses, such as schools.
Thorne concludes that “there’s not much authority left in the hands of the municipality.”
There are currently about three dozen licensed cannabis stores authorized by the AGCO to open throughout the city of Hamilton, while dozens of other applications are awaiting approval.