Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

When schools, cannabis and politics collide

A proposed Ontario Cannabis Store in a suburban Toronto strip mall will be 450 metres from a public school. (Google Earth/Graeme Bruce/The Leaf News)

A proposed Ontario Cannabis Store in a suburban Toronto strip mall will be 450 metres from a public school. (Google Earth/Graeme Bruce/The Leaf News)

An election-fuelled, "think of the children" panic is captivating Toronto this week — and no surprise, it's all about weed.

Specifically, it's about the location of one of Ontario's first Ontario Cannabis Stores. The province's monolithic marijuana monopoly-in-waiting unveiled its first four locations earlier this week, including one in a suburban Toronto strip mall.

A day later, The Toronto Star unveiled its torqued-up take: "How did one of Ontario's first legal pot stores end up next to a Toronto public school?"

In reality, the future legal marijuana shop will be a 450-metre stroll from Blantyre Public School — not exactly "next to".

But the strip mall, wrote the Star, "is a place where many elementary and high school students go at lunchtime to get food from McDonald's or Tim Hortons — or where kids go for after-school math tutoring or martial arts classes."

In full election mode, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne immediately pledged to get to the bottom of how a government-operated store could be so close to a kid-friendly hangout spot.

The Star also asked workers in the strip mall what they thought about their pending neighbour.

A dental clinic employee said, "the neighbourhood also has a number of immigrant families from India and Bangladesh."

"They’ve come to Canada to start a new life and build a dream life for themselves, and now the next generation will be exposed to all these things," Jasmine Milani told the Star. "I don’t think they’ll like it."

Will that next generation of Canadians actually be exposed to cannabis from the store, though?

It's doubtful. Ontario Cannabis Store will feature plain branding on the outside, and customers will have to undergo ID checks in a lobby before entering the store itself. Even inside the store, they'll be buying marijuana kept locked away behind a counter.

Unless those kids have remarkably good fake IDs, they won't be exposed to anything other than bland signage reading "Ontario Cannabis Store."

This kind of local news story — "Family-friendly neighbourhood frets over pot shop" — is sure to proliferate across Canada as legal cannabis stores start announcing their future locations. And sooner or later, some of that legally-sold marijuana will inevitably end up in a child's hands, vindicating those NIMBYists once and for all.

But remember: if legal, regulated cannabis is going to work, it has to be sold at accessible locations — for example, a commercial plaza where lots of people shop. Relegating legal marijuana stores to the most remote reaches of Canadian civilization is a recipe for failure.

That means Canadian children will indeed see cannabis stores in their neighbourhoods — right next to the bars, liquor stores, casinos, porn shops and strip clubs, not to mention the McDonald's and Tim Hortons.


New on The Leaf

  • More fun with the Ontario Cannabis Store: New documents give us new hints about the experience of buying legal cannabis.
  • Doctor, doctor: Dear Herb helps out an aspiring medical cannabis user who can't find a doctor willing to give weed a chance.
  • Bad news for medical cannabis insurance: Gordon Wayne Skinner was denied insurance coverage for medical cannabis by his employer after an on-the-job accident, but a human rights board ruled in his favour. Now, the N.S. Court of Appeal says Skinner wasn't entitled to coverage after all.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Rate expectations: A University of Alberta report suggests legalizing cannabis will lead to a higher injury rate in the province.
  • Turning a black-market past into gold: Global News explores how Canadians with experience in the illegal cannabis market are transitioning to the new industry.
  • Blaming the demon weed: A 37-year-old Toronto lawyer pleaded guilty to a hateful baseball bat attack on a family, but said he was suffering from cannabis-induced psychosis at the time.

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