Mayor John Tory calls for marijuana tax to help city handle increased costs

Mayor John Tory says marijuana legalization will create new expenses for the city, and he wants the province to consider a potential “special levy” on pot sales to help Toronto pay.  Tory wrote a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne this week that says while he supports legalization — calling it a “sound and sensible public policy in 2017” — he still has a number of concerns that the two governments have to address together.

The federal government plans to legalize marijuana by next Canada Day, if not before.

“Whatever decisions are made, I have no doubt the result will be increased costs for the City of Toronto,” Tory said in his letter to Wynne.  Tory didn’t say how much a potential levy to offset those costs should be, however he did note that some U.S. cities have requested the same. Previously, Toronto has sought the ability to collect an alcohol tax to help pay for big-ticket items like public transit, but has been denied by Queen’s Park.

Coun. Joe Mihevc, chair of the board of health, says Tory is “absolutely right” to assume Toronto will face additional costs. He also wants to see the province — which will determine how and where legal weed is sold and for how much — deliver some of the tax money it makes to the city.  “We should get a piece of it, frankly, to undertake our work,” he said.  Especially, he says, because city officials will be on the frontlines.  “You will not see people calling their Member of Parliament or Member of Provincial Parliament — they’re going to call their local councillor if something happens. We need to be ready for that.”

The city has already been dealing with hundreds of dispensaries opening up across the city.

Tory says he expects legalizing weed will require more public health funding as well as funds for regulatory work including licensing and zoning.  “I do not think the people of Toronto would support future widespread location of outlets for the sale of marijuana in residential neighbourhoods or in certain retailing areas,” he said.

Tory adds he still has a number of concerns surrounding legal pot, including:

  • Protecting the public, especially youth.
  • Keeping the roads safe.
  • Making sure people are safe at work.

The mayor’s letter says consultation work between the two governments is already planned.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi’s office is also holding public consultations about what the legal weed landscape should look like, including whether or not it should be sold at LCBO outlets.  “There are many options,” he told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning last week, noting the government is trying to find out how restricted or open people want access to marijuana to be.

Tory’s letter says the city should also get a say on how legal weed is distributed.