TORONTO - When it came to rapidly expanding Uber, Mayor John Tory was certainly opposed to standing in the way of the changing reality.
“The notion that we think somehow we’re going to turn back the hands of time in Toronto, Canada, I mean this is not sensible,” Tory said, much to the chagrin of the taxi industry.
But on the rapidly expanding marijuana dispensary business, bud boosters are accusing Tory of wanting to turn back the clock.
“I would ask that you employ, in conjunction with the Toronto Police Service, 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,” the mayor wrote to the city’s licensing officials.
But with marijuana soon to be legalized, is it sensible to go back to the way it was when pot would be sold in the back alley behind the dispensary?
The dispensary owner pays rent and municipal taxes that those in the shadows don’t.
Tory promises that is not even close to what he is saying.
“Left unaddressed, the number of these dispensaries will only increase,” Tory wrote in his open letter, released Thursday. “This proliferation brings with it potential health risks for individuals who patronize dispensaries where the substance for sale is completely unregulated. It also affects surrounding businesses and communities who have valid concerns that must be addressed — in particular, concerns about access by minors.”
Risks worse than drug dealers selling to minors in the nearby schoolyard or the “proliferation” of gun crimes in 2016 thanks to the sale of illegal pot?
“John Tory knows perfectly well that shutting these dispensaries down will force countless medical marijuana users, many of them veterans, back into the arms of dealers,” said Russell Barth, known as the Angriest Pothead in Canada.
Tory rejected that notion — saying in many cases the products they are selling have no “quality control” and, in some cases, illegal sales were occurring. He’s also concerned with it becoming “the wild west” before it’s even legal to properly sell.
Barth argues their existence falls into a loophole/grey area created by Supreme Court rulings similar to what Canada experienced with abortion, same sex marriage and prostitution.
“That’s why the police have not been laying charges,” he said.
Tory said he’s merely trying to protect neighbourhoods and businesses from something new sprouting up without adequate rules.
Meanwhile, Barth said he expects pushback from political and business elites as some consider the legalization of pot that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has promised a modern day gold rush.
“Legalization to them is a corporate monopoly on marijuana,” he said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has talked of selling pot through the LCBO and it’s no secret several former politicians and ex-cops have gone into the medicinal marijuana business.
Barth believes state control advocates don’t want the public to get used to Main Street store sales and price competition.
Rather than having a government market and a “black market,” he prefers the mom-and-pop shops. He also supports the idea that a regular person who may want to avoid LCBO-type prices should be able to grow a few plants of their own tax free.
“It should be like tomatoes,” he said.
Tory once said “Uber is here to stay.” Now he insists no matter how it’s spun, he’s not trying to stop pot dispensaries from being the same.