Over the past number of months, the City of Toronto has been receiving inquiries regarding storefront marijuana dispensaries that have been appearing in great numbers across the city.
These dispensaries are not allowed under both the Health Canada Federal Regulations (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes - ACMPR) and the City's Zoning By-law.
The City's role with regards to medical marijuana is to regulate, through the Zoning Bylaw, where it can be produced and distributed. Medical marijuana production facilities, licensed by the Federal Government must comply with all municipal bylaws, including municipal zoning bylaws.
There are 35 authorized licensed producers in Canada, and 20 in Ontario. Licensed producers distribute medical marijuana by mail to authorized users. Storefront distribution of medical marijuana is illegal and not permitted.
Following guilty pleas and convictions, the Ontario Court of Justice has imposed sentences of between $1,000 for an employee and $4,000 for a dispensary owner. In addition, the Courts have imposed Prohibition Orders under the Planning Act and the City of Toronto Act, Probation Orders under the Provincial Offences Act, and Closing Orders under the City of Toronto Act.
The Closing Order means that the property location is immediately closed "for any business use involving the sale of any form of edible marijuana foodstuffs intended for human consumption" for up to two years. The fines are designed to deter repeat offences and ensure that the defendants do not reopen or continue to work at the marijuana dispensaries that are illegal in Toronto.
Storefront medical marijuana dispensaries that have recently emerged in Toronto are operating in contravention of federal laws and the City's Zoning By-law.
Marijuana is a prohibited substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), except where exempted by law. The consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes has been exempt from the CDSA through various regulations since 2001.
Under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), individuals authorized by a health care practitioner to use marijuana for medical purposes can:
- access mail-order products from producers licensed by Health Canada
- register with Health Canada to produce a limited amount for themselves
- designate someone to produce it for them
If Health Canada changes the regulations regarding recreational marijuana, individuals will have to follow those laws. Until then, the City will continue to enforce the regulations that are in place.
City of Toronto Resources:
1. Licensing and Standards Committee decision and Mayor Tory's letter, May 19, 2016
At its meeting of May 19, 2016, Licensing and Standards Committee directed the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, in consultation with the Medical Officer of Health and the Chief of the Toronto Police Service, to report on a regulatory framework for marijuana businesses, including a review of the current operations of marihuana businesses in the City of Toronto, a review of regulations in other jurisdictions including Vancouver, and recommendations to address concerns, including the feasibility of licensing marihuana businesses and other regulatory mechanisms to regulate the proximity of these establishments to schools and other educational facilities, childcare and other sensitive uses. Read Mayor Tory's letter to Licensing and Standards Committee.
2. Licensing and Standards Committee decision and staff report, June 27, 2016
On June 27, 2016, staff reported to Licensing and Standards Committee on the issue of medical marihuana dispensaries. Committee "deferred consideration of the item until provincial and federal legislation has been passed on medical marihuana dispensaries and the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards can report on the matter." Read the staff report on the Review of Regulations Governing Marihuana for Medical Purposes.
3. ML&S Monitor, Federal Government announces new medical marijuana regulations, August 17, 2016
4. Toronto Public Health report on the legalization and regulation of non-medical marijuana, May 16, 2016
5. News Release, Owners and employees of six marijuana dispensaries fined by Courts, October 20, 2016
Federal Government Resources:
1. Federal Government fact sheet on Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation.
2. Understanding the New Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations
3. Federal Government discussion paper to support consultations led by the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation.