An influx of medical marijuana dispensaries in Toronto, Ontario have local lawmakers scratching their heads over how to react to the changing tides of marijuana reform.
Under Canadian federal law, only government-licensed companies can legally distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes — and only via mail service. On the other hand, a recent court decision ruled that patients are allowed to grow their own medicine, and the recently-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes sometime next year.
It’s this mishmash of federal positions on the legality of cannabis that have led Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher to call for some federal clarification.
“We need a sign from the federal government — are they going to change the rules around medical marijuana? Should we as council be trying to close these clinics altogether or make new rules around where they can go, how close they can be to each other?” Fletcher said. Lawmakers in Vancouver, British Columbia made such an effort last year, ultimately passing regulations that limit where marijuana dispensaries are tolerated within Vancouver city limits.
“What’s really clear is it’s a multi-gazillion-dollar industry, to have so many shops open up like crocuses in spring. If we’re legalizing, we need to make sure taxpayers benefit,” said Fletcher.
When asked about Health Canada’s stance on the influx of new cannabis distributors, an organization spokesman told The Toronto Star, “Dispensaries and other sellers of marijuana who are not licensed under the current law are illegal … Questions about enforcement of federal regulations in this area should be addressed to local law enforcement.”
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