Saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to cannabis shops in the GTA

By Remi Stephanie Rozario
February 15, 2019

While some cities have chosen to be marijuana-friendly, others have kissed the ‘high’ goodbye.

Beginning April 1, 2019, you’ll be able to buy cannabis in some, but not all, municipalities in the GTA at designated retail stores. As for the selling end of it, under the Cannabis Licence Act, municipalities had until Jan. 22 of this year to make the choice to opt in or out of permitting cannabis retail stores within their perimeters.

While the areas that decided to opt out can change their mind in the future, those who said ‘yes’ do not have the freedom to change their decision.

In fact, 330 out of a total of 414 municipalities in Ontario opted in to allow the sale of recreational cannabis in retail outlets. In the GTA, those that said ‘no’ are listed below.

Whether or not this decision will discourage some families from moving into certain areas remains to be seen.

Brampton is one of the cities that opted in to the licensing of cannabis retail stores. Brampton City Councillor Rowena Santos shared with that the decision was made while prioritizing public safety and fiscal responsibility for the city.

She says that this decision will not directly impact property values or the decision to move into a certain area. “It is going to require a lot of education and a cultural shift in thinking about what cannabis is and making sure that people know that really the priority for us now municipally is to protect public safety,” said Santos.

Santos believes that the decision will positively impact Brampton as councillors will be advocating to have more control over the location of the retail stores and a larger share of funding in order to enforce the issue.

Santos first reaction was to opt out, she said, but her own analysis helped changed her mind.

“I am a single mother, and I originally wanted to opt out of cannabis retail stores because of the knee-jerk reaction and stigma that all other parents and families may face when they think of cannabis. But after reviewing the evidence and research, the best option was to opt in,” she said.

According to Santos, Brampton is a great place to raise a family because of the many parks and recreational amenities available, the friendly vibe of the people and the overall sense of community.

Samim Jilani, 20, who co-owns a house with his sister in Bowmanville feels the existence of cannabis stores around his town wouldn’t have been an issue if he lived alone. Since he resides with his family, it does bother him, he said. He believes that being under the influence of cannabis tends to make people do things they normally would not, so it could be unsafe, he said. The municipality of Clarington, which includes Bowmanville, has as opted in.

Ajax is another municipality that voted in favour of cannabis retail stores. Joel St. John, 28, a resident of Ajax who shares a home with his family, believes that opting in was a good decision as it can create jobs in the area.

“It doesn’t affect the way I see Ajax. I don’t think it’s going to hurt [it] directly, I don’t think it’s going to hurt me, so I think it’s good,” said St. John.

East Toronto resident George Brett Harris, 42, has similar views. He believes that having cannabis retail stores in the area means more money and jobs for the area.

The City of Toronto has opted in, but finding a store in any area of the GTA beginning in April may be tough — only a total of only 25 cannabis stories will be allowed to open in Ontario due to a national shortage of legal cannabis.

According to a press release, when Ontario has determined that the federal government has provided for enough reliable supply, Ontario will issue further retail store licences.


  • Ontario is assisting municipalities with the costs related to the legalization of recreational cannabis by providing $40 million over two years through the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund. Earlier this month, a first payment of $15 million was provided to municipalities on a per-household basis, adjusted so that at least $5,000 was provided to each municipality.
  • The Ontario government has said it will set aside $10 million to help address costs from unforeseen circumstances related to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Priority for this funding will be given to municipalities that have not opted out.
  • Municipalities must use the funding to pay for costs directly related to the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Municipalities in the GTA prohibiting cannabis retail stores include:

  • Brantford
  • Caledon
  • Town of Georgina
  • East Gwillimbury
  • Grimsby
  • King Township
  • Markham
  • Milton
  • Mississauga
  • Newmarket
  • Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Oakville
  • Pickering
  • Richmond Hill
  • City of Vaughan
  • Wasaga Beach
  • Whitby

The full list of municipalities in Ontario that opted in or out is available on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s website at

Related reading

Medical marijuana: Living high in these neighbourhoods


About Remi Stephanie Rozario

Remi Stephanie Rozario is a NextHome contributor.

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