It seems like there is one on every block, and certainly all throughout the city; Cannabis retail stores have taken root in Ottawa. But, are there too many?
From urban areas in the core, like Bank Street in the Glebe, to the ‘big-box’ malls in the suburbs, there are pot shops all throughout the city.
“I think it’s nice, we have easy access,” Luke Forte tells CTV News Ottawa while leaving Tokyo Smoke in Barrhaven with a small pack of edibles.
Forte lives only minutes away.
“It’s convenient to where I am; it’s just close to where I work, it’s like a little pit stop almost,” he says.
Since the first cannabis stores opened in Ottawa in April 2019, many others have sprung up. According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, there are 108 actively licensed cannabis stores in Ottawa, and an additional 40 under review.
Meantime, there are only 36 LCBO locations across Ottawa.
“If they’re opening up, I’m sure there’s demand for it,” says Forte.
“I think for the most part, it’s just become a normal, everyday part of life; the fact is you see them everywhere now, it’s certainly not shocking or unexpected,” says lawyer Trina Fraser, an expert in cannabis law.
“There’s no cap, there’s no formula to calculate the maximum number of stores; the province has set a system where market forces will dictate that for us, so the market will tell us when there are too many stores, and will see a contraction, I actually think we are starting to see that.”
“If the pot shops were spread out, it might not be too many,” says Michelle Groulx with the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas. “Having them all together in the same place doesn’t that kind of variety of independent businesses that a neighbourhood needs to thrive, and to serve the neighbourhood.”
With Cannabis shops highly regulated, and all selling the same product, Groulx says, “They’re taking away from what a Main Street does offer, which is a variety and experience of several different things, as opposed to just one thing.”
Take, for example – the Rideau Vanier ward.
“The Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario, this provincial agency, has approved 16 licenses in my area,” says coun. Mathieu Fleury, adding four new stores are pending.
“People might perceive this as a, ‘Oh, what’s the issue? It’s like a coffee shop;’ and, they don’t perceive it like the LCBO model, but for us it’s more complex than that. It’s around bigger concentration and a deterrent for other new businesses to come in, within the zone.”
But, for those like Forte, who islooking for a convenient place to shop, “I think it’s good.”