Canada: London Still In Dark About Cannabis Store Location As Other Cities Learn Theirs

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Lurie

With recreational marijuana becoming legal in less than four months, two Southwestern Ontario cities getting government-run pot shops have tentative locations for the stores, but London remains in the dark on where its will be.

The province identified London, Chatham and Windsor as cities selected to get at least one Ontario Cannabis Store – the LCBO-run dispensaries that will be the only legal pot retailer in Ontario – when the initial 40 shops and affiliated online service open across the province after the drug is legalized on Oct. 17.

Though the province has announced the addresses for shops in only four cities – Toronto, Guelph, Kingston and Thunder Bay – unconfirmed sites have been identified in Chatham and Windsor.

But the LCBO isn’t making any further decisions until premier-designate Doug Ford – who has mused about privatizing cannabis sales, but also says he’ll consult with stakeholders before making a decision – is sworn in next week, an LCBO spokesperson said.

“It’s too early for OCS to provide an update now,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Ontario’s new cabinet is still to be sworn in and we’d provide more information after that time.”

The province has identified a possible location for its Chatham-Kent store, said the municipality’s mayor, Randy Hope.

“They’ve identified an area,” he said, declining to reveal the site. “But that is between the landowner and the tenant. Everybody is going to be in a hold position until the government of the day is sworn and and says ‘move forward.’”

In Windsor, the province has zeroed in on two possible locations, both of them close to LCBO outlets. One is near Tecumseh Road and Lauzon Parkway, the other near the Roundhouse Centre on Howard Avenue, a source previously told Postmedia.

“We have had discussions with them and given them council’s guidelines as to what we have as preferred locations and we know they’re working with that.
–Gregg Barrett, the city’s manager of long-range planning​

Officials in London have provided the province with criteria for where the store should be located, but it’s ultimately up to the province to decide where the retail outlets go.

City staff met with provincial officials in November – when the stores were slated to be opened by July 1 – and the province agreed to adhere to the municipal criteria for how the sites would be selected. It wasn’t confirmed at the meeting whether London would get a second store.

“We have had discussions with them and given them council’s guidelines as to what we have as preferred locations and we know they’re working with that,” said Gregg Barrett, the city’s manager of long-range planning.

“But beyond that, I don’t have any other information.”

City council approved a policy last year to ask the province to ensure the cannabis retailer is located at least 500 metres away from schools, libraries, pools, arenas, community centres and the Western Fair. Under the policy, the dispensary should have lots of parking and be in a shopping area along an urban corridor that’s linked to rapid transit.

Barrett noted the province isn’t bound by zoning requirements.

“If it’s a retail store that’s within those preferred areas, there’d be no municipal requirements . . . other than getting their building permit like anybody else opening a business.”

The number of Ontario Cannabis Stores will grow to 80 next year before expanding to 150 by 2020, the governmental says.

Canada’s 95-year-old ban on recreational marijuana will end Oct. 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday, one day after the Cannabis Act passed its final vote in Parliament.