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Ottawa study finds many pots shops located in low-income areas and close to schools

A study from The Ottawa Hospital is analyzing the activity and location of 260 cannabis retail stores across Canada.
2019-04-01 hobo retail cannabis
Hobo Recreational Cannabis in Ottawa, April 1, 2019. Jenn Pritchard/

Canadian retail cannabis shops are more likely to open in low-income areas, according to a study conducted by The Ottawa Hospital.

Six months after pot became legal in Canada, 260 cannabis retail stores had opened across the country; 181 privately run stores, 55 government-run stores and 24 stores in the hybrid retail system.

"Certainly, we think lower rent and perhaps zoning by-laws may make low-income areas more attractive to store owners," said Dr. Catherine Brown, one of the authors on the paper. "Store owners may also believe that there will be more demand for cannabis in low-income areas. Another thing is that individuals in wealthier areas may also have more influence to keep the store out of their neighbourhood."

Research also found that in jurisdictions with privately-run cannabis stores, retail stores are 166.7 m closer to schools than in jurisdictions with government-runs stores, but in total a median 598 meters away from schools. 

"[Children] are more likely to see it more often," added Brown. "Different jurisdiction have different rules about how cannabis can be advertised, but certainly there is worried about increase access."

Even though the study found that privately-run cannabis outlets are opened 9.2 more hours per week on average more than government-run cannabis stores, Brown finds it more concerning to know shops are opening closer to schools.

When legislature was introduced for retail cannabis stores there were two goals the government wanted to meet: Eliminating the illicit cannabis market, and preventing youth from accessing cannabis. 

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