What’s behind Toronto’s pot shop explosion?


Cannabis shops are taking over Toronto.

Nearly three years since Canada legalized recreational cannabis, retail pot shops are everywhere. There are officially 161 in the city, often in clusters of half a dozen or more within blocks of each other. Pot shops have snatched up empty storefronts at such a quick clip that it’s become a running joke: anytime a store, a bar or a coffee shop closes in a trendy or up-and-coming neighbourhood, the countdown starts to when it will become a weed store.

Neighbourhood groups, politicians and concerned citizens have been raising alarms on social media that the explosion of pot shops is homogenizing the streets, driving up commercial rents and killing the character of neighbourhoods. 

With the city re-emerging from lockdown, there are suddenly dozens of cannabis dispensaries opening their doors for the first time, and Toronto looks like a whole new city – a city of cannabis. 

But how concerned should people really be? 

Can this cannabis retail boom last, or is this a fleeting trend? Should this be an actual urban concern, or is it just another moral panic? And how long before the bubble bursts?