Private cannabis stores can open within 150 metres of schools under new regulations posted by Premier Doug Ford’s government — something he had promised not to allow.
“I won’t put it besides schools like you did,” Ford said in a spring election debate to then-premier Kathleen Wynne. The Liberal government had planned to open its first state-run marijuana outlet 450 metres from Blantyre Public School in Scarborough.
The long-awaited details on rules for pot shops that will be allowed to open April 1 came Wednesday evening as the Progressive Conservatives tried to distract attention from a new tell-all book by former party leader Patrick Brown.
“It’s troubling that Doug Ford’s latest back-door decision — this time to allow pot shops to move within a stone’s throw of kids’ schools — was done without any consultation with parents or communities,” said Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh.
Shops will be allowed to serve customers from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, restricting entry to patrons aged 19 and over, unlike liquor and beer stores where children can tag along with their parents.
Attorney General Caroline Mulroney insisted the guidelines, including the smaller distance buffer from schools, are in the best interest of the public.
“The purpose of these regulations is to keep kids safe and to ensure all people operating in this tightly-regulated retail system behave with integrity, honesty, and in the public interest,” she said in a statement released over the supper hour.
The hours of opening “are consistent with on-site retail stores for alcohol and will provide retailers with the flexibility to respond to local market conditions and consumer demands,” the statement added, referring to LCBO agency stores that are part of convenience, hardware and other stores in rural and remote areas where there are no liquor stores nearby.
Wynne’s plan to put a pot store so close to a school raised concerns among parents, but an analysis by the Star last April found more than half the city is within 450 metres of a school.
The Liberal government planned to allow only 150 state-run pot stores by 2020, which critics said would not be enough to stem the black market. Ford scrapped that policy in August, opening the opportunity to the private sector to avoid spending taxpayer money on stores and to create more opportunities for the business sector.