Innisfil, Ont. could soon see three pot shops open up on Commerce Park Drive, something critics say is “odd” and “doesn’t make sense.”
“It wouldn’t be in the regulator’s interest to have three stores located that closely together,” Trina Fraser, an Ottawa-based cannabis lawyer with Brazeau Seller Law, told Global News.
“This is not even ‘we’re within a couple blocks of each other,’ like it’s crazy. They just can’t let that happen.”
The proposed store locations in Innisfil are at 1982, 1988 and 2008 Commerce Park Drive.
“It happened by virtue of an intentionally random draw,” Fraser said. “Of course, the risk is that you’re going to end up with unintended clustering.”
Currently, Dewildt Marine and Powersports is located at both 1982 and 1988 Commerce Park Dr. The owner of the business, Ken DeWildt, rents both of the properties and told Global News in an email that his company isn’t connected to the cannabis store licence applications.
“We are not affiliated in any way with the store nor are we aware of any intended repurposing of any of the properties listed,” DeWildt said in an email. “We currently have leases in place and will continue to operate our Marine and Powersports businesses from these locations.”
Innisfil deputy mayor Daniel Davidson told Global News on Wednesday that having three locations so close together is odd and that he hopes there only ends up being one cannabis store in the area.
“It’s interesting because Commerce Park Drive is an industrial, commercial area in the municipality, so I’m happy with that, that they’re not downtown,” he said.
“I question as to why all the locations. Is it one person going under three names to open one large facility?”
Fraser said she can’t imagine all three proprietors will want to stay in the same area together.
“Will [the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario] tell these people where they need to go to try to fill gaps in the region or will they give them the discretion to basically put it wherever else they want?” she said. “If all three of them say, ‘I don’t want to move,’ then what do you do?”
WATCH: Local Kingston business loses out a second time in the cannabis retail store lottery
According to Davidson, the proposed locations on Commerce Park Drive are out of the way from the town’s centre.
“You have to drive there to be going there,” he said. “It’s a destination point. It’s not a tourist area, it’s not [a] highly trafficked volume area.”
Davidson said he’s concerned because the proposed locations are close to Highway 400, a busy road in Ontario.
“What’s to stop somebody from buying a product there and getting on the highway north or south under the influence? I have a concern there because the 400 highway is bad enough as it is.”
South Simcoe Police Service chief Andrew Fletcher told Global News that the Commerce Park Drive area is probably one of the only parts of Innisfil that is compliant with the AGCO’s location regulations for cannabis retail stores.
“In order to meet the first threshold of the application, you had to demonstrate that you were so many kilometres outside of any residential neighbourhood, not within close proximity to schools and those sort of things,” Fletcher said.
He added that RIDE checks could be set up in the area of the proposed store locations to monitor whether people are driving impaired after they purchase cannabis.
“If they do choose to indulge, either in their vehicle or while on the highway, that’s why we have our drug recognition experts and we have our testing equipment available,” Fletcher said.
“I think we need to set that standard early. We’ll see with the store owners.”
WATCH: Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory pot shop owner speaks out against legal First Nation licences
While Fletcher told Global News he’s not concerned about the proximity of the proposed store locations in the town, Davidson said he doesn’t understand why Innisfil needs three pot shops.
“For a population of 35,000, why would we have three? Why would they be located in an industrial area and close to a major highway?” Davidson said. “Security in a place that’s not populated at nighttime concerns me.”
The AGCO’s senior communications advisor, Raymond Kahnert, told Global News in an email that the locations are only proposed and that those selected through the lottery must now apply for a cannabis retail operating licence and store authorization.
“With respect to the similar addresses: while the Lottery Rules (#2c) state the applicant must operate their cannabis retail store at the same address as provided on their Expression of Interest application… there is a provision in the rules that the applicant can submit a request to the AGCO Registrar to operate a cannabis retail store at a different address in the same Region,” Kahnert wrote.
“The AGCO will not speculate as to the reasons for the owner of the location to provide multiple confirmations that an applicant had secured retail space.”
Kahnert added that the AGCO will only licence applicants and authorize stores that meet all the agency’s legal and regulatory requirements.
One person won Ontario’s lottery to apply for a cannabis store licence in Barrie, located north of Innisfil, while another individual won in Collingwood, Ont., situated north-east of the town.
Thirteen won to apply for licences in Toronto.
In total, there are 42 winners for the AGCO’s second cannabis lottery draw, which took place on Tuesday. Another eight stores will also open on First Nations in Ontario through a separate process.
— With files from Morganne Campbell