UPDATE (DEC 14): We’re waking up to news this morning that the province will now limit the number of private retail cannabis licenses in Ontario to a maximum of 25 for the initial roll-out. I agree that this is a more responsible approach to the introduction of retail stores, and it could allay some of my concerns about clustering of stores at least in the short term. But it is extremely frustrating and a major drain on municipal resources to not have had this information during our council meeting yesterday. I’m anxious to see more information from the AGCO on this new approach.


Thursday morning, council met to discuss whether or not allow private retail cannabis stores within the city. The meeting lasted nearly five hours and included nine public delegations, numerous questions for officials from public health, by-law, police and planning departments, and considerable discussion among councillors.

In the end we voted unanimously to permit retail cannabis stores beginning April 1. Much of the discussion centered around the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (AGCO) policy and framework for evaluating and approving licenses. The AGCO is the provincial body that will be in charge of awarding licenses and inspecting the stores. I was disappointed that there were no officials from the AGCO on hand to answer our questions.

I’m satisfied that the City has the right resources in place to ensure public safety and public health. The number one concern that I’ve heard about from residents is about the location of retail cannabis stores – both proximity to vulnerable areas, and the density or “clustering” of stores on a particular street or neighbourhood. This will be controlled via the AGCO, and not the City.

The AGCO will have a consultation process in place where the public will be able to comment on any new application for a retail cannabis license, but it’s a very short window – only 15 calendar days. The city is developing its own process to ensure that the public is informed of any applications in their neighbourhood, and that councillors have an opportunity to submit comments to the AGCO outlining any neighbourhood concerns. It’s imperative that the AGCO listens carefully to all stakeholders during the consultation process, and provides transparency around their licensing decisions.

Many of my council colleagues, myself included, are also concerned about the lack of tools to limit clustering of cannabis stores in any particular street or neighbourhood. While I don’t believe this will be a significant issue in the suburbs, it is a major concern in more urban areas. We passed a motion from Councillor Mathieu Fleury (Rideau-Vanier) that gives the Mayor the authority to lobby the Ontario government to give cities more planning authority over where cannabis stores are allowed to set up shop.

I encourage residents to contact their provincial MPP with questions or concerns about the licensing, location and operation of retail cannabis stores in our city.


Here’s a press release from the City of Ottawa published after today’s meeting.

Ottawa to permit cannabis retail stores

City Council today directed the City Clerk and Solicitor to notify the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that the City of Ottawa will permit retail cannabis stores beginning April 1, 2019.

Permitting retail cannabis stores will help reduce the black market and provide consumers access to safer products in a highly regulated environment. The City will spend less resources shutting down illegal sellers, and receive additional funding from the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund to offset the costs related to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Cannabis retailers will also create economic and employment opportunities in the city, including spinoff benefits for other sectors.

The direction followed Council’s consideration of the Report on Ontario Cannabis Legislation, Cannabis Retail Stores and Response to Council Direction of August 29, 2018 and feedback from public delegations.

Council, meeting as Committee of the Whole, heard presentations from nine members of the public. This is in addition to 23,000 responses to an online survey conducted earlier this fall. The responses to the online survey and a random sample telephone survey generally supported permitted retail cannabis stores in Ottawa. Public input indicates that residents want stores with appropriate controls and protections to minimize the impacts on the community.

The General Manager of the Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department will develop the City’s formal responses to store applications made to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission. Responses will require the agreement of the Ward Councillor.

The Mayor will advocate with the Ontario government for greater municipal planning authority over retail cannabis stores, including for the right to increase the distance between stores and to regulate and license private cannabis retail stores.

Staff will report on the impact of the legalization of recreational cannabis on City services in late 2019.

This report focussed on cannabis retail stores. As new issues emerge, the City will consult with residents and provide additional reports and recommendations to Council as required.


Ottawa autorisera l’exploitation de magasins de vente au détail de cannabis sur son territoire

Le Conseil municipal a demandé aujourd’hui au greffier municipal et avocat général d’informer la Commission des alcools et des jeux de l’Ontario (CAJO) que la Ville d’Ottawa autorisera l’exploitation de magasins privés de vente au détail de cannabis sur son territoire à compter du 1er avril 2019.

L’autorisation d’exploiter des magasins de vente au détail de cannabis aidera à réduire la présence du marché noir et donnera aux consommateurs l’accès à des produits plus sûrs dans un environnement très réglementé. La Ville dépensera moins de ressources pour mettre fin aux activités des vendeurs illégaux, et elle recevra des sommes supplémentaires au titre du Fonds ontarien de préparation à la légalisation du cannabis afin de compenser les coûts liés à la légalisation du cannabis à des fins récréatives. L’exploitation de magasins de vente au détail de cannabis contribuera également à créer des perspectives économiques et des possibilités d’emploi dans la ville, et à générer des retombées dans d’autres secteurs.

Cette directive fait suite à l’examen par le Conseil municipal du Rapport sur les dispositions législatives sur le cannabis en Ontario et sur les établissements de vente au détail de cannabis, et réponse aux directives du Conseil municipal du 29 août 2018, ainsi que des commentaires recueillis auprès des délégations publiques.

Le Conseil, réuni en comité plénier, a entendu les présentations de neuf membres du public. Cela s’ajoute aux 23 000 réponses reçues suite à un sondage en ligne effectué plus tôt cet automne. Les réponses au sondage en ligne et à un sondage téléphonique aléatoire étaient de manière générale favorables à l’exploitation de magasins autorisés de vente au détail de cannabis sur le territoire de la Ville d’Ottawa. Les commentaires du public indiquent que les résidents veulent des magasins dotés de mécanismes de contrôle et de protection appropriés afin de réduire au minimum les répercussions sur la collectivité.

Le directeur général de la Direction générale de la planification, de l’infrastructure et du développement économique préparera la réponse officielle que la Ville présentera à la CAJO relativement à l’établissement de magasins de vente au détail de cannabis. Les réponses nécessitent l’approbation du conseiller de quartier.

Le maire plaidera auprès du gouvernement de l’Ontario en faveur d’un plus grand pouvoir municipal en matière d’urbanisme en ce qui concerne l’établissement de magasins de vente au détail de cannabis, y compris le droit d’augmenter les distances de séparation entre les établissements.

Le personnel produira des rapports sur les répercussions de la légalisation du cannabis sur les services de la Ville vers la fin de 2019.

Le présent rapport portait principalement sur les magasins de vente au détail de cannabis. Au fur et à mesure que de nouveaux enjeux surgiront, la Ville consultera les résidents et fournira des recommandations et des rapports supplémentaires au Conseil, au besoin.