Letter of Impact re: Bill 178, Smoke-Free Ontario Amendment Act (SFOA), 2016.
“Strengthening Ontario’s Smoking and Vaping Laws”
Dear Government of Ontario,
Kensington Market has a long history of a welcoming nature and tolerance that is well documented and is at the core of why it is such a beloved neighbourhood in Toronto as well as one Ontario’s most important tourist attractions.
We are also home to North America’s second oldest cannabis lounge, Hot Box now located at 204 Augusta Ave. Hot Box welcomes up to 500 visitors a day who consume medical marijuana indoors and on their secluded back patio. This consumption is done largely through non-toxic vaping medical cannabis that citizens must bring in themselves.
For whatever other reasons besides those above, we are now on the front lines of cannabis related issues in the province given that medical cannabis businesses (dispensaries) chose to open here first ahead of their plans to expand throughout the province. We now have approximately 10 medical marijuana dispensaries in our neighbourhood and are witnessing the expansion of that number in our neighbouring communities immediately surrounding us.
There is clearly a strong demand for medical cannabis in Ontario. We already have 50,000 legal Ontarians on the MMPR program as well as countless thousands of others who are exploring medical cannabis, who are now medicating serious health conditions using marijuana, including: cancer patients, epileptics, people suffering from multiple sclerosis, people with HIV/Aids, used as pain management etc… As more and more Ontario doctors become familiar with cannabis and it’s practical and effective medicinal uses we can only expect the number of individuals who will be prescribed cannabis to grow in number.
It is also very important to note that all of our canna-businesses are taxed and are beginning to make significant contributions to the coffers of three levels of government. They have effectively taken money out of the hands of organized crime and have dramatically reduced the number of street dealers in our community. These are side effects that we can all agree are good for everyone. Only a criminal minded person or organization would challenge these societal benefits.
It is not only the cannabis industry that is now being threatened by the Ontario government’s BILL178. It is also our community and all medicinal cannabis users throughout the province who are under threat from this bill.
- All Cannabis lounges in Ontario will have to shut down. The lounges provide medical patients a safe place to consume their medicine in a safe non-toxic way and in a convivial atmosphere with other cannabis consumers. Closing cannabis lounges will result in much more marijuana consumption in the streets. With a multitude more citizens being exposed to their second hand smoke. There is also likely to be more smoking of cannabis on sidewalks rather than the safer non-toxic vaping which takes place in the lounges. This reality runs counter to intent of the Bill. BILL178 effectively will result in children and other non-cannabis users being exposed to marijuana.
- Similarly, patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities and even people in their own homes who are receiving home care will be forced to be strolled out on to the sidewalks to consume their medicine. No one wants their gravely ill great-aunt, parent or child to suffer a blizzard just to follow their medicinal regime as prescribed by their doctor.
- Seniors who are medical cannabis users will effectively be ostracized and forced to stay home and not seek out any additional help that they may need, all in order to continue following a healing regime prescribed by their doctor that is working very well for them.
- Canna-businesses provide a valuable educational service for medical patients regarding the correct strain of cannabis to use for their condition in addition to correct methods to consume it in a non-toxic manner. This Bill strips society of this benefit.
- Our community will be facing a loss of nearly 10% of it’s businesses in one fell swoop. That is a lot of empty storefronts and a significant loss of the large amount of foot traffic these businesses now bring to our community on a daily basis benefitting other small businesses. Not to mention the revenues that they are pouring into government coffers and being kept out of the hands of organized crime. Many other communities will also be affected, this Bill represents a significant loss in the small business sector of our economy.
- Many believe that Bill178 is less about public health and is more of a power play by big corporations (pharmacology and tobacco among others) to wrest control of the cannabis industry from small independent businesses. A quick look at the tremendous amount of lobbying at Queen’s Park these days reveals that this is most likely the case and strongly conflicts with the values of our community.
- On the eve of the legalization of cannabis use in our fair country, some of the measures of Bill178 are counter-productive to a safe regulated environment for the significant portion of our society who consume cannabis. While harder, more societally and health damaging drugs like alcohol have a regulatory framework for their users to congregate and enjoy themselves together, we should be exploring a licensing system which will allow cannabis users to share the same rights as their fellow citizens.
In summary, we view this Bill to be backwards, not at all well thought out and contrary to the compassionate values shared by Ontarians and are calling on the Government of Ontario to shred it and consider carefully the regulatory framework that we all all agree needs to be put in place. Let’s not make suffering seniors lives more miserable than they already are and take advantage of this newly appearing revenue stream for the benefit of all Ontarians rather than push the money it generates back into the hands of criminals.
We would welcome the opportunity to talk with legislators about a reasonable and well thought out regulatory framework that would be beneficial for Ontarians should you want to seek our input.
With thanks for your time and consideration,
Kensington Market BIA