Canada is just a few months away from legalizing recreational marijuana, and after years of planning, both provincial and municipal governments throughout the country are doing everything they can to help this transition run as smoothly as possible. And while most have figured out best practices for safe and profitable distribution, there are some urban centres who have been fumbling the ball in the lead up to legalization this summer. One of those places happens to be Ottawa, Ontario, whose latest proposition has raised eyebrows and pissed off a good few locals.
Yesterday, the Ottawa Citizen reported that city planners are asking the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation to avoid opening dispensaries in areas that are “experiencing socio-economic stress”. It’s not hard to read between the lines here: this means if officials have their way, legal sale won’t be available to Ottawans who live in poor neighbourhoods. The Citizen says that city staff declined to elaborate on their proposal, leaving citizens confused and justifiably angry. Many soon took to Twitter to voice their frustration, calling it a scandalous and ridiculous idea.
Quebec wouldn't be the first place to suggest this type of planning restriction. Back in December, Quebec’s union of municipalities supported a similar plan of action. UMQ president, Alexandre Cusson, told a provincial committee that opening dispensaries in poorer blocks could hurt residents the same way poker machines in impoverished areas "fuel gambling addictions"—although experts routinely dismiss marijuana as an addictive drug.
Social media users today were also quick to point out that these propositions could simply increase illegal interest in poorer neighbourhoods, which would completely defeat the purpose of investing in legal dispensaries in the first place. Meanwhile, Ottawa’s problematic decision has, so far, not been publicly addressed by the city itself. Residents will be able to voice their concerns to planners shortly after dispensary sites have been officially selected.