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A local community group in downtown Ottawa says it’s concerned about the number of cannabis stores potentially opening up in the ByWard Market. 

There are currently two cannabis stores in the area  — a Hobo and Fire & Flower — but five others have applied for permits with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to operate, says Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury.

Norman Moyer, president of the Lowertown Community Association, thinks seven pot stores in the neighbourhood will crowd out other businesses.

“Having too many stores, open too fast, we think [that] is not a good idea,” said Moyer. The group is not against cannabis retailers in the market, he said, but believes there needs to be variety.

“We want to be known as an area where you can come and shop for a whole lot of different things,” he said. 

“Whenever you get a monoculture of businesses, the other businesses around suffer.”

Councillor calling for change

At the Wednesday council meeting, Fleury submitted a notice of motion for the city to ask the province to start to consider over-concentration of pot businesses as an evaluation criteria for new applications.

“What’s the right number for Rideau Street and the ByWard Market? I don’t know what that is,” Fleury said.

“But I want the city’s experts in zoning, public health and other agencies to weigh in and I want that information to be meaningfully considered by the AGCO when they review the submissions for those licenses.”

The councillor for the ByWard Market, Mathieu Fleury, says the amount of shops in an area needs to be considered when a new licence is being approved. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Fleury also noted rent prices in the ByWard Market have risen and worries that may drive away other businesses. 

The AGCO and Ministry of the Attorney General said there is no limit for the number of cannabis stores allowed in a community, only that locations must be away from schools. 

In an email to Radio-Canada, the AGCO said before issuing a licence, the agency does a comprehensive assessment of the applicant, including police and background checks.

There is a 15-day public notice process to allow for comments from the local community before a store authorization is issued, the email said. 

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