A new cannabis store is just two weeks away from opening in Toronto but concerns have arisen regarding its proximity to an after-school learning centre and other areas frequented by youth.
M-Cannabis, or Metropolitan Cannabis, is slated to open in the Westway Plaza at 1735 Kipling Avenue in Etobicoke.
Recently granted its retail store authorization by the AGCO, M-Cannabis could not be reached for comment, so there’s not much known about the brand other than the fact that it has three more stores getting ready to open in the city.
But even before it opens, members of the Dixon community are pushing for the store to close due to its proximity to a number of youth-related community hot spots.
Kumon tutoring school sits a short walk away in the same plaza, as does another tutoring centre, Learna Etobicoke.
Also in the Westway Plaza is Dixon Community Services: a non-profit organization that provides settlement services and mentoring programs for youth.
Last month, Ahmed Urur, the director of education and youth coordinator at Etobicoke’s Khalid Bin Walid Mosque, petitioned the community to file an objection to M-Cannabis on the AGCO website.
“Our community knows that Dixon is a neighbourhood that’s suffered a lot,” said Urur as he stood outside the Westway Plaza in a video uploaded to Facebook. “We’ve lost many youth, and many of our youth are behind bars because of drug-related charges.”
“Opening a cannabis store, in this location, in this area, where many families live, is detrimental to our community and can destroy us.”
Just north of Westway Plaza, across the street, sit the Dixon apartment towers, whose residents have had to live with the stigmatization of gang-related activity covered by media in recent years.
M-Cannabis has been granted its store authorization on July 2 anyway. But residents are still pushing for an overhaul on how the province approves weed stores, especially in relation to schools.
According to the Cannabis License Act, retail cannabis stores aren’t allowed to open within 150 metres of a public or private school, meaning the rule doesn’t apply to private tutoring businesses like Kumon.
Earlier this month, Deputy Mayor and Ward 2 councillor Stephen Holyday submitted a letter to the Etobicoke York Community Council regarding three new cannabis stores, including M-Cannabis, proposed for the area.
“I have been contacted by numerous residents who have raised concerns about the poor suitability of the locations, and the increased risk of access to cannabis by minors that they pose,” said Holyday.
“Some locations are very close to more than one school, and they are located at or near strip plazas and parks which are frequented by youth.”
Holyday said many residents found the 150 metre rule “too permissive” and pointed to the fact that the AGCO’s sole authority in the matter excluded the input of the public and elected officials, giving rise to “transparency and fairness”.