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Mayor says marijuana law will help to shut down Toronto's illegal ‘dispensaries’

Mayor John Tory says new provincial cannabis legislation should “clarify” the rules around the federal legalization of recreational weed next July.

Mayor John Tory: “It isn’t kind of a Wild West environment, where people can just go out and set up any kind of a shop they want. I don’t think anybody really supports that, except, perhaps, the people that are operating the shops.”

VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR FILE

Mayor John Tory: “It isn’t kind of a Wild West environment, where people can just go out and set up any kind of a shop they want. I don’t think anybody really supports that, except, perhaps, the people that are operating the shops.”

Ontario’s new cannabis legislation should “clarify” the rules and give municipalities the tools to finally shut down illegal marijuana shops, says Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Tory said Wednesday he welcomed the province’s bill, which should clear the haze that has allowed the storefront “dispensaries” to operate because of ambiguity swirling around the federal legalization of recreational weed next July.

“Make no mistake, this is all about the rule of law,” the mayor told reporters after a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne.

“I am very comfortable with the direction in which the Ontario government is going,” he said, referring the province’s plan to have weed sales restricted to as many as 150 standalone LCBO-run stores and an online portal.

Tory signaled to the dozens of remaining marijuana “dispensaries” that they will soon be legislated out of business.

“These shops, to the best of my knowledge, are illegal, have always been illegal, will continue to be illegal, and are not contemplated as being part of the regime going forward,” he said.

“It isn’t kind of a Wild West environment, where people can just go out and set up any kind of a shop they want. I don’t think anybody really supports that, except, perhaps, the people that are operating the shops.”

Wynne said the legislation being tabled by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is “a plan for a safe, responsible distribution of cannabis.

“The federal government has made this decision,” she said.

She noted the province is setting the age limit for consumption at 19 and ensuring that local communities have a say in where the LCBO-run stores open.

“We will work with municipalities to make sure that they are in places that are appropriate, just as LCBO stores are in places that are appropriate,” the premier said.

“There needs to be a regulation of cannabis and . . . . We have a history in this province of regulation of alcohol and I think that doing this in a safe, responsible way means that we put some parameters around the distribution of this substance,” she said.

“It’s about safety for young people and anyone who is going to be using marijuana, and it’s also about tackling the underground market.”

But Wynne emphasized the provincial treasury is not expecting a huge cash windfall from legalized recreational weed sales.

“This, actually, isn’t about money from my perspective. This is about making sure that a substance that needs to be regulated is regulated in a safe and responsible way. And that’s exactly the approach we are taking.”

Tory agreed the cash bonanza “is grossly exaggerated,” because the prices will be kept low in order to put criminal dealers out of business.

“But I am not assuming that this is going to be some big opportunity for people to make money,” the mayor said.

“In fact, I’d be more worried at this stage of the game, when we are trying to be so careful, if there were people who were really motivated to make a lot of money, because that might call into question the ultimate objective, which is to keep kids and families and neighbourhoods and retail strips safe and stable.”

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