The harvesting of cannabis has been documented for thousands of years due to its diverse range of uses (Wright, 2011). Before the discovery of silks and cotton, clothing made from hemp was commonplace throughout south and central Asia due to its ability to produce cloth like fibres (Houser, 2014). Cannabis contains a psychoactive drug called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), along with the less psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) (Wright, 2011). Psychoactive drugs affect brain function resulting in changes to mood, perception, consciousness and behaviour (Wright, 2011). There have been a numerous amount of positive medicinal benefits from cannabis such as the ability to help relieve symptoms of HIV–AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, seizure disorders, nausea, severe and chronic pain, muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, including other conditions (Hoffmann, 2010). Marijuana has also been viewed as an important aspect for cultural rituals as well as for recreational use (Wright, 2011).
Although marijuana has been used both medicinally and recreationally across the world for thousands of years, it still remains illegal to grow, use, and possess in most countries (Hajizadeh, 2016). In the United States, the decision to make cannabis illegal was lead by Harry J. Anslinger in 1930 (Guithier, 2009). Anslinger was the director of the Bureau of Narcotics, and as a way to expand his operations past opioid and cocaine governance, Anslinger created a negative stigma for cannabis so the public would support its decision to become illegal (Guitheir, 2009). For example, Anslinger published absurd claims such as "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind." and "Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men" to fuel his propaganda (Guithier, 2009). Marijuana has also been deemed illegal because it is perceived as an addicting substance, associated with other narcotics, and had its medicinal benefits neglected (Head, 2017).
Prohibition has been the dominant regime of cannabis control, yet an increasing number of countries have recently implemented cannabis control reforms (Fischer, 2015). This list of countries includes Canada, where it has been deemed illegal since 1923, and was not approved for medicinal use until 2001 (Hajizadeh, 2016). In 2015, the Liberal government was elected into federal office, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who received adequate support for one of his controversial campaign promises to legalize the use of recreational marijuana across Canada. In April 2017, the federal government formally introduced legislation to propose the legalization of recreational marijuana use by July 2018, deferring jurisdiction of who can sell and buy cannabis related products to the provinces and territories (LCBO, 2017). Although 29 cities across the province are approved to sell cannabis, the specific location of recreational marijuana dispensaries has yet to be determined.
With the introduction of a formally illegal drug, many factors must be considered to ensure that the use of this product is beneficial to society. One of the nations main concerns is ensuring that youth will not have increased access to marijuana upon introduction (LCBO 2017). While many side effects of long-term marijuana use are still unknown there have been studies indicating severe health implications for users at an early age (Porche, 2013). The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) suggests that users who start smoking cannabis before the age of 15 years old are 4 times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder by 26 years old (Wright, 2011). Limiting marijuana access to Canadian youth is crucial seeing as Canadians have the highest rate of marijuana use among developed countries, with almost a quarter of the population aged 15 to 24 years reporting past-year use (Hajizadeh, 2016).
Ensuring that the dispensary is accessible to those eligible for use is another main concern from the Canadian government. Retail stores are more likely to be located in census tracts characterized by higher resident income and lower levels of poverty (Pollack, 2009). Since marijuana abuse and dependence is higher in areas of concentrated disadvantage, siting a dispensary in a higher income area will protect vulnerable populations fr improper marijuana use while allowing the dispensary to generate significant revenue (Mair, 2015). The siting of a dispensary must also take into account sensitive locations, such as parks and other public spaces so marijuana will not be encouraged for use in public.
In order to maximize the protection of vulnerable populations from improper marijuana use, the suitable location of a marijuana dispensary must be highly thought out and be based on a number of important social and spatial criteria. Assuring that access to a recreational dispensary is limited to youth, while still highly accessible to legal users is incredibly important both socially and economically. With the use of Geographical information systems (GIS) and spatial analytic tools, the location of a dispensary can be determined to align with Ontario's proposed framework of protecting youth, providing access within communities, and addressing the illegal market (LCBO 2017). The problem is highly relevant in the City of Guelph, for example when asked where the ideal location for Guelph's store would be, city mayor Cam Guthrie identified proximity to schools as the most important factor in siting a dispensary by stating, "Probably not near a school would be one criteria that I would want to question" (McNaughton, 2017). By creating a MCE model that can determine the most suitable location for a marijuana dispensary in an Ontario region such as Guelph, the safety and integrity of communities will remain intact while benefitting from recreational marijuana use.
Purpose of Research
The purpose of this research is to develop a GIS based Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) model to determine the most suitable location for a newly approved recreational marijuana dispensary for the City of Guelph.
1. To identify relevant criteria and limitations from literature related to siting approved marijuana dispensaries.
2. To establish an MCE model to determine the most suitable location for incoming dispensaries in approved municipalities.
3. To apply the model to the City of Guelph to determine the most suitable location for marijuana dispensaries.
4. To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the GIS-MCE model.