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Medical Marijuana Dispensary Crackdown Gets Priorities All Wrong

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JOHN TORY
CP
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We recently learned that Toronto Mayor John Tory has written a letter to the head of Municipal Licensing and Standards to ask for a report and recommendations for dealing with what he called the "verging on out of control" growth of medical marijuana dispensaries. He also said that pot shops are showing up in "what I consider to be unacceptable numbers."

"Out of Control." "Unacceptable." Pretty strong language from the mayor.

He even goes on to say that Toronto Police should use "whatever enforcement mechanisms are currently available to you, to address the health and safety concerns of neighbours and businesses in the communities where these marijuana dispensaries are currently operating unlawfully."

These "out of control," "unacceptable" businesses that are "operating unlawfully" should be immediately shut down, and any and all patrons and owners should be arrested and thrown in jail immediately, no? Why do we need a study and report? Perhaps even Mayor Tory himself would have to be arrested for setting foot in one of these establishments.

Let's look at the numbers more closely to see how Mayor John Tory defines "out of control," because of course his top priority is "the health and safety concerns of neighbours and businesses." According to the website TO Dispensaries, there are approximately 90 shops operating in the 416 currently. Let's compare their health and safety impacts to industries that already exist in Toronto.

Nail Salons

Studies on air quality in the average nail salon shows unacceptable levels of toxic compounds including formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOC). A quick Google search for "nail salon Toronto" reveals a staggering list of at least 400+ salons, but it's likely much more.

Most air quality research on cannabis smoke and vaporizers shows minimal health impacts, certainly far less than smoking tobacco. Mayor Tory could ask authorities to crack down on these establishments who pay minimum wage and expose staff to toxic chemicals, not to mention the public, but these businesses are operating "lawfully."

Payday Loans

A quick Google search for "payday loans Toronto" reveals at least 250 payday loan, cheque cashing and other similar services operating in the 416. These lawful businesses prey on Toronto's struggling working poor and small business operators who struggle with cash flow daily, weekly. They charge outrageous rates in a time when cheque scanning technology allows financial institutions to process transactions in the blink of an eye.

Long gone are the days when cheques needed to be manually cleared, yet these businesses drain our economy and the pocket books of those who can least afford it. Single parents who desperately need child support continue to be denied because these cheque cashing services help deadbeat parents stay off the grid and avoid garnishments that would be applied at a bank or credit union. Mayor Tory could prioritize a crackdown on these businesses, but he won't because single moms and the working poor don't have enough money to pay for a top-notch lobbyist.

I am sure that the licensed marijuana producers are losing a lot of business as a result of dispensaries, and that their lobbyists are knocking on doors down at City Hall every day, begging the mayor to help them maintain their monopoly. It must be very frustrating for those businesses who follow the new rules to see court challenges uphold the rights of cannabis patients

I am not suggesting that dispensaries get a free pass -- they should be regulated and controlled as much as any other business, and many are likely operating without proper licensing and certification. What I will suggest is that perhaps Mayor John Tory and some members of council have their priorities all wrong when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Toronto residents.

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