'We're allowing illegal market to thrive': Mississauga reconsidering ban on cannabis retail stores

Mississauga seeking to overturn law banning the sale of cannabis within municipality

The fate of legal cannabis shops in the City of Mississauga hangs in the balance as city council members reconsider a long-standing ban aimed at marijuana shops within its borders.

City councillors debated the issue on Wednesday, with nearly half of them voicing their opposition. A formal vote is set to take place next week.

The motion to lift the ban on cannabis stores was put forth by Coun. Dipika Damerla.

"What I have found is that there has been a proliferation of illegal cannabis stores in Mississauga,” Damerla said in an interview. “So now my choice is not between no stores and legal stores. The choice is illegal stores or legal stores.”

Mississauga, Ontario's largest municipality without any legal cannabis retail stores is set to reconsider its prohibition Wednesday, with a city report highlighting that its residents are
A variety of cannabis edibles are displayed at the Ontario Cannabis Store in Toronto on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she's all for legalizing cannabis storefronts in her municipality.

"By not opting in, we are only allowing the illegal market to continue to thrive. There is no way to control what products can be laced with and help prevent them from getting in the hands of our youth " she wrote in a tweet.

Mississauga remains Ontario's largest municipality without legal cannabis stores following provincial legislation that saw the legalization of cannabis during 2018.

The ban has resulted in an increasing number of illegally-operated pot shops operating within city limits, causing a strain on law enforcement resources.

Damerla pointed out that in her ward alone, police have made six attempts to shut down one illegally-run cannabis shop, however, operators show up the next day and resume business as usual.

She writes in her motion that it was prudent to take a "wait and see approach” with the legalization of cannabis shops in Mississauga back then. But now, four and a half years later, the implementation of legal pot shops would reduce the profitability of illegal storefronts.

Residents also want their voices heard, as city polling suggested 68 per cent of Mississaugans were in favour of retail cannabis stores back in 2018.

One social media user took to Twitter suggesting that this move would hurt cannabis storefronts in surrounding areas, outlining a bigger issue that Mississauga residents were having to leave their municipality to legally purchase cannabis products.

Another Twitter user posted her support for a reversal of the ban, stating that it was "crazy that Mississauga still hasn't allowed dispensaries nearly 5 years after legalization."

Another Twitter user shared confusion about how a store be considered illegal when the province deemed cannabis legal in 2018.

The ban on cannabis storefronts in Mississauga stems from Resolution 0218-2018, which was passed during December 12, 2018 by city council members, which explicitly prohibited retail cannabis stores in the City of Mississauga.

Members of council are now seeking to overturn this resolution.

Mississauga Mayor Crombie says the matter will be deliberated at the Council meeting next Wednesday, April 19, and welcomes public and stakeholders feedback.

The Ontario cannabis market currently oversees 1714 shops across the province, employing approximately 48,000 Ontarians and contributes $13.3 billion to the province's GDP