Illegal cannabis shop in Mississauga that keeps reopening could soon be legal

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Published April 11, 2023 at 4:22 pm

An illegal pot shop in the heart of Mississauga has pretty much “cornered the illegal cannabis market” in the city and repeated attempts by cops to shut the operation down have proven futile.

In a report to be presented at tomorrow’s (April 12) City of Mississauga general committee meeting, where councillors are expected to reconsider Mississauga’s long-standing ban on legal cannabis stores operating within city borders, senior City staff note that the illegal dispensary “continues to be an issue” and matter of “concern” for police.

While the report explains that Weed Releaf Cannabis Dispensary, located near Hurontario and Dundas Sts. in Cooksville, has not attracted any violence or crime to the area, according to Peel Regional Police, it does attract “significant foot traffic and customer base, which negatively impacts the quality (of) life for the surrounding businesses.”

The report continues, noting that “Peel police continue their efforts to mitigate the impact of this illegal dispensary.”

Since January 2019, police have executed several Cannabis Control Act search warrants at the Mississauga dispensary, seizing thousands of dollars in cannabis products each time.

“The dispensary consistently reopens after it has been ordered to stop operations,” the report from Shari Lichterman, Mississauga’s acting city manager, reads. “This operation has effectively cornered the illegal cannabis market in Mississauga and its central location provides easy access to consumers.”

The staff report notes that Peel police say those same challenges persist.

“(Police) state they have limited powers under the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Control Act, the fines are minimal and the illegal businesses make significant cash profits that are not regulated or taxed. Penalties are not a deterrent.”

The staff report also points out that, according to the Ontario Cannabis Store, “Mississauga residents continue to be disproportionately served by the illegal cannabis market compared to municipalities that have opted in” and allow the retail pot shops to do business.

Furthermore, the report states that Mississauga residents also continue to access cannabis products through online delivery and by visiting legal retail cannabis stores in nearby communities.

It also shows that 42 per cent of Mississauga cannabis consumers report having purchased from mail order cannabis sites, 61 per cent from an individual and 47 per cent from an illegal dispensary.

Mississauga, the largest municipality in Ontario to so far deny the operation of legal cannabis stores within its borders, will once again consider changing its stance when City councillors meet Wednesday morning.

As one of five GTA municipalities and 64 across Ontario to “opt out” since weed was legalized in 2018, the City of Mississauga has, to date, stood firm in its position.

The issue at hand has always been control over where the pot shops would be allowed to open and do business. Most Mississauga councillors want to be able to regulate the businesses to some degree.

However, the Ontario government has also stood firm, saying the shops are not to be controlled by municipalities. There are no signs it’s about to budge.

There are indications Mississauga might now change its stance and “opt in” to the legalized cannabis shops plan.

The staff report also notes that “clustering of stores” in neighbouring municipalities that allow retail cannabis sales “has not proven to be an issue to date.”

The concern over a potential clustering of stores, and associated problems, has been at the centre of Mississauga’s opposition.

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