Can the City issue licences for retail cannabis stores?

No, the legislation specifically prohibits the City from passing its own licensing program. 

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 sets out a licensing and regulatory regime for private cannabis retail stores administered by the AGCO. This new statute establishes eligibility criteria for the issuance of licences and authorizations. 3 PBD-2018-76 December 11, 2018 Those interested are able to apply for two types of licences - a retail operator licence (ROL) and a cannabis retail manager licence, and a retail store authorization (RSA) for specific cannabis retail store locations. A person would require an ROL before they could be issued an RSA, though they would be permitted to apply for both an ROL and an RSA at the same time.

Licenses can be revoked, suspended or not renewed for failure to comply with the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018. 

Is there an opportunity for comment on proposals for cannabis retail store locations?

Yes, the Registrar will give notice of an application for a retail store authorization by requiring that a notice be displayed at the location of the proposed Cannabis Retail Store specified in the application, by posting a notice on the Commission’s website; and in any other manner the Registrar considers appropriate.

The AGCO will provide a 15-day window for the public and municipal government to submit comments for each store site proposed by an approved operator. The legislation provides that municipal comments should focus on whether a proposed storefront location is in the public interest, as defined in the regulation. In the regulation, public interest is defined as public health or safety, protecting youth and eliminating the illegal market. At this point, the municipal government will not be provided pre-notification of the application.

In discussions between the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) and the Province, it has been proposed that a municipal government may consider creating a policy statement identifying specific and significant locally sensitive considerations or uses which best represent the expectations of the community in allowing cannabis retail. This statement would provide direction to Council in providing input to the AGCO within its 15-day review period. Since it is unlikely the Council will meet within the 15 day period, it is recommended that a key senior staff lead be appointed as the point of contact for proposed cannabis store notices from AGCO and that position will coordinate municipal input in a one-window approach within the commenting period. 

This process would be much like the current process used to comment on liquor license applications, where the AGCO requires that a notice be posted on site for comments from area residents and businesses before a site authorization is given.

Can the City establish distance separations from sensitive land uses?

No, the Provincial legislation establishes separation distances.

The provincial regulatory framework (O. Reg. 468.18) in order to protect youth, restricts a cannabis Retail Store from being located within a distance of 150 meters of a property containing a public school or most private schools. Appendix 1 is a map showing the protected areas adjacent to school properties and the commercial designations where retail stores may locate. The municipality cannot adopt a greater distance. The distance buffer would not apply to private schools that only hold on-line classes.

No buffers from any other use have been specified by the regulations and there is no indication that a Retail Cannabis Store must be separated from any other Retail Cannabis Store. However, following the recommendation of AMO, staff recommends the adoption of a policy statement to guide the preparation of comments to be submitted to AGO on applications for retail stores.

Can the City use zoning to regulate retail cannabis stores?

The Provincial legislation expressly prohibits municipalities from distinguishing the use of land, a building or structure that includes cannabis sales from any other retail store. Because recreational cannabis is a legal, controlled and regulated product, cannabis will be considered like any other type of retail product, and as such, no zoning changes are needed.

The provincial licensing process does not remove the requirement to comply with the zoning by-law and other municipal planning documents. The definitions within the municipality’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law are applicable to all retail, including cannabis retail stores. Retail sale of cannabis from a provincially licensed store is legal and is a permitted use in the retail zones. Some of the City’s zones, such as the Tourist Commercial zone, prescribe a maximum floor area for retail stores. This regulation would apply to universally to any retail store and should not be considered contrary to the legislation.

Can cannabis be sold in stores alongside other retail goods?

According to Ontario Regulation 468/18, under the Cannabis License Act, 2018, all private recreational Cannabis retail storefronts must be stand-alone stores. A retail store authorization would not be issued to a proposed cannabis retail store if, the retail space where cannabis would be sold, is not be enclosed by walls separating it from any other commercial establishment or activity and from any outdoor area. Nor can the space be entered from or accessed through any other commercial establishment or activity, other than a common area of an enclosed shopping mall. Also a license would not be issued, if the cannabis to be sold, is received or stored where it is accessible to any other commercial establishment or activity or to the public.

Retailers will not be permitted to allow anyone under the age of 19 to enter their stores. Any individual who works in the retail cannabis market must complete approved training in the responsible sale of cannabis.

The legislation limits the holder of a retail store authorization to sell only cannabis purchased from the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. Other items permitted to be sold at Cannabis Retail Stores include cannabis accessories and shopping bags.

Must retail cannabis stores adhere to municipal building inspections?

While the licensing of the store operation is the responsibility of the AGCO, the Building Code applies to cannabis retail store locations. Therefore, where a building permit is required, the building inspector will undertake duties as usual. Fire Code compliance is also mandatory. 

Who is responsible for enforcement?

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 will be enforced by the AGCO through regulatory measures such as licence sanctions (e.g. suspensions and revocations, and monetary penalties enabled under the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation and Public Protection Act, 1996). The act establishes general offences respecting the licensing scheme, including prohibitions against hindering inspectors or investigators and against retaliating against a person because of any disclosure to the Registrar or to an inspector or investigator.

How many stores will be permitted in Niagara Falls?

Store concentration and number will ultimately be determined by the market demand.

A Provincial limit of 75 stores per operator has been set to prevent a high degree of market consolidation, promote opportunities for small businesses, and promote investment in the cannabis retail sector. 

What would the cannabis retail store operating hours be?

Private recreational cannabis retail stores will be permitted to be open between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on any day, consistent with new hours announced for retail stores for alcohol. 

What are the timelines for opting out of allowing cannabis stores in our community?

Municipal governments have the one-time opportunity to opt out of allowing retail cannabis stores in their communities. The decision to opt out must be made by a resolution of Council by January 22, 2019. Unless a municipal government opts out as per Ontario Regulation 468/18 s. 22, they are considered to have opted in to retail sales of recreational cannabis by default.

Should the municipality decide to opt out, it must provide written notice of a resolution passed no later than three business days after the resolution is passed. 

What funding is available to municipalities that opt in?

The province has just released the funding approach to help municipal governments offset implementation costs. While opting out can be reversed after January 22, the municipal government will not gain any additional funding from the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund (OCLIF) than it had as of January 22 when it opted out - beyond the minimum second payment of $5,000. 

The Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund (OCLIF) will be distributed as follows: 

- The City has been notified that it will receive its share of $15 million in mid-January in the amount of $48,254. This will enable all municipalities to proceed with their planned legalization activities. 

- A second payment of at least $5,000 from the $15 million will be distributed following the January 22, 2019 deadline for municipalities to opt-out under the Cannabis License Act. 

- Those municipalities that have opted-out will only receive a second payment of $5,000. 

- The Province is setting aside $10 million of the municipal funding to address costs from unforeseen circumstances related to the legalization of recreational cannabis, and priority will be given to municipalities that have not opted-out. Further details will be provided at a later date. 

- Finally, if the Ontario’s portion of the federal excise duty on recreational cannabis over the first two years of legalization exceeds $100 million, the Province will provide 50 % of the surplus only to municipalities that have not opted-out. 

Lower-tier and upper-tier municipalities will receive a 50/50 split of the allocation. The household numbers will be split between the upper- and lower-tier, and the allocation calculated accordingly. Decisions to adjust the split in allocation and transfer funding can be made at the local level as needed. Upper-tier municipalities will receive funding in relation to opt-out decisions made by the lower-tier municipality.

Municipalities must use this funding to address the implementation costs that directly relate to the legalization of recreational cannabis. 

Examples of permitted costs include: 

- Increased enforcement (e.g., police, public health and by-law enforcement, court administration, litigation); 

- Increased response to public inquiries (e.g., 311 calls, correspondence); 

- Increased paramedic services; increased fire services; and 

- By-law / policy development (e.g., police, public health, workplace safety policy). 
Complementary to this municipal funding, the Province will continue to do the following: 

- Increase the capacity of law enforcement to help detect drug impaired driving through training. 

The Province has also created a specialized legal team to support drug impaired driving prosecutions, increased capacity at the Province’s Centre of Forensic Sciences, and has created a Cannabis Intelligence Coordination Centre. 

- Support local boards of health (public health units) by providing a suite of tools and resources for enforcement of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, which includes rules for smoking and vaping of cannabis. 

- Conduct an integrated public awareness campaign to communicate the rules and regulations for recreational cannabis and educate Ontarians about the health and safety measures in place to protect them. 

What is the effect of the City's anti-smoking by-law?

The Province’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 will allow smoking of cannabis in any location where tobacco products may be enjoyed. The maximum fine for using cannabis in a prohibited place would be $1,000 for a first offence, and $5,000 for a subsequent offence, the same fines that apply to smoking tobacco or using an electronic cigarette in a prohibited place.

In Niagara, a regional by-law is in place for Smoke-Free Outdoor Spaces to which the prohibited use of cannabis would also apply and be enforced.

The City’s by-law is written such that it prohibits smoking of any product in certain places, whether it be tobacco or any other substance.