Owners of Montessori school concerned after storefront steps away wins cannabis lottery

One of the 13 locations up for a cannabis store license is just a few doors down from a Montessori school in the Beaches. Ginella Massa on why the licensed daycare centre may not be included in the 150 metre distance for pot shops from schools.

By News Staff

The owners of an east-end Montessori school are expressing concerns after a storefront just steps away from their school was one of the recent cannabis lottery winners.

Owners of the Beaches Montessori School, Leigh-Ann Jacques and Julie Mitchell, say they’ve been fielding calls from worried parents after news spread that one of the random lottery winners is situated just three few doors down from the school.

They also claim they haven’t been able to get a clear answer about the situation despite reaching out to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and other officials at all three levels of government.

Rules explicitly state that cannabis dispensaries aren’t allowed to operate within 150 metres of a school, but Jaques thinks a loophole could preclude many Montessori schools and daycares from that protection.

Jaques believes the issue may stem from the definition of a private school under the Education Act as an institution for five or more pupils who “are of or over compulsory school age” of six.

The Beaches Montessori School accommodates 62 children between the ages of 18 months and five years.

“We are not quite sure how our age group wasn’t included in the 150 metre buffer zone,” she said. “But it appears that we are not included, and only schools with children six years or older are included in that … maybe it was a mistake, we can’t actually believe that the intention was to exclude this vulnerable sector.”

“Nobody can really give us a straight answer,” she added. “Everybody seems as surprised that we are not included as we are. We are just not getting the answers we are looking for.”

The Ministry of Education tells CityNews the Beaches Montessori School is classified as a licensed child care centre and not a school, meaning it may not fall under the same rule prohibiting cannabis dispensaries from operating within 150 metres of a school.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean a dispensary will be opening at the location.

“It is important to note that before the store is granted its license to operate, it will be required to post a public notice at the location,” The Ministry of Education told CityNews in an email. “The AGCO will accept comments for 15 days before determining whether the location is appropriate.”

The Ministry said the AGCO Registrar will consider comments that related to public health and safety, protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis and preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

Last week, AGCO spokesperson Raymond Kahnert told CityNews that winning the lottery is just a preliminary step towards obtaining a licence.

“Once your name is selected it doesn’t mean you have a licence,” he stressed. “It means you simply can begin an application, and anyone who is announcing that they have won the right to sell and is going to open a store is premature, because now begins the very extensive eligibility and due diligence review of every applicant … to ensure that they can operate legally and within all laws and regulations.”

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