THUNDER BAY – It’s been a long and winding road for Thunder Bay residents waiting for a cannabis retail store. Now there may be at least one more bump in that road before a pot shop can open its doors here.
The City of Thunder Bay is opposing the location of a new store at 1082 Memorial Avenue, in a strip mall across the road from Intercity Shopping Centre. Their objections centre on the nearby YES Employment Services, which provides services to “vulnerable youth,” according to the city.
The final decision will be made by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), after reviewing the feedback from the city, as well as any public comments submitted during the notice period, which ended on Dec. 13.
The proposed location met all of the criteria in the city’s policy on cannabis retail siting, passed earlier this year by city council. The policy specifies stores should be located at least 150 metres from locations like daycares, LCBOs, shelters and group homes, parks, and waterways.
While the location checks all of those boxes, the city says after becoming aware of the proposed location on Dec. 2, concerns about the proximity to YES Employment were raised in consultations with “municipal departments and external agencies.”
YES Employment, located less than 150 metres from the proposed location, runs services like Youth Job Connection for those as young as 15. The services are often targeted at youth facing barriers like poverty, homelessness, and discrimination. The city says “special consideration must be given to vulnerable populations” in considering cannabis retail locations.
The city’s submission to the AGCO says research shows locating cannabis stores near youth can normalize and increase substance use.
If approved by the AGCO, the location would be operated by a numbered Ontario corporation in partnership with Tokyo Smoke, a Smiths Falls-based cannabis retailer involved in several other stores across the province.
City council voted to allow cannabis stores in Thunder Bay nearly a year ago, on Jan. 15. Since then, a dispensary on Fort William First Nation was shut down by the band, while an operator who was approved to operate a shop on Victoria Ave. was disqualified by the province in August after failing to submit required paperwork.