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Planning Implications of Legalization

Under federal legislation and the Ontario Cannabis Act the recreational use of cannabis was legalized on October 17, 2018. The new legislation has land use planning implications in relation to the commercial sale of cannabis and the production of cannabis materials. Retail stores and production facilities have been noted to have implications for community health and safety, including particular concerns related to odour. Some municipalities throughout Southern Ontario have restructured their definition of “farm”, implemented buffers between facilities and stores and community areas including schools, and established signage and lighting requirements to reflect the new land use planning reality of the legal cannabis industry.

Within Ontario, the sale of cannabis will be operated under a private retail model. Municipalities have the opportunity to opt out of having retail stores until January 22, 2019 under the Cannabis Stature Law Amendment Act. If Municipalities do not opt out of having stores, the legislation in place will restrict Municipalities from enacting zoning by-laws prescribing distance requirements and the like. The province will establish the requirements for new stores. Residents or municipalities can submit their concerns about new stores to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario during a 15-day public notice period. Prospective store owners must apply for permission to open a store in a specific location. The Province can deny authorization for any request if it would not be in the public interest. After April 1, 2019 private retail stores will be in operation in conjunction with the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation.

Municipal governments have key jurisdictional responsibilities in land use planning for cannabis related facilities and activities. As upper and lower-tier Official Plans and municipal Zoning By-laws are updated to be brought into conformance with provincial plans, it can be expected that more guidance and policy will be implemented to regulate the production and sale of cannabis, and the continued enjoyment, health and safety of our public realm.

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