Townships weigh the pros and cons of pot sales

Written by  Wednesday, 19 December 2018 12:47
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Both North and South Frontenac gave cannabis fans in their municipalities a green Christmas present at their final meetings of the year, deciding to permit private cannabis retailers access to their market, subject to the restrictions that are set out by the government of Ontario. But the chances of a pot store opening up within the next six months within either township are remote, as the government has limited the number of private stores in the entire province to 25 when stores will be allowed to open up on April 1st, only 5 of which will be located in Eastern Ontario.

The problem is one of supply, and once that is sorted out the government has indicated they will let the market determine how many stores are viable in Ontario.

Both townships received staff reports that outlined the pros and cons of permitting private stores in their jurisdictions before debating the issue at a council meeting.

Claire Dodds, the Director of Planning Services for South Frontenac, summed up the benefits of cannabis sales in her report: “It is broadly recognized that the legalization of recreational cannabis creates a new sector in the economy. While projections of users and sales vary, it is anticipated that the market will be sizeable. It is also expected that the market will grow over time as Canadians begin to participate as legal consumers.

“Opting out of permitting retail sales in the Township would mean that the only legal sources of purchase will be online or through retail outlets in neighbouring municipalities. If retail stores are not permitted in South Frontenac, any associated jobs related to retail stores will occur in neighbouring municipalities.”

The Province has stipulated a 150 metre buffer around schools in any municipality that opts-in to retailing, and has also said that there can be no further restrictions on locations other than commercial zoning.

North Frontenac opts in by Craig Bakay

North Frontenac Council voted 7-1 to opt in with retail cannabis outlets at a special meeting last Friday in Plevna. The lone nay vote came from Coun. Vernon Hermer.

Although he didn’t get a vote, Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier, who came to Council on another matter (his letter questioning the role of conservation authorities), stuck around to see how the cannabis question resolved.

“I was glad to be here so they could hash it out,” Hillier said.

As it turned out, Council engaged Hillier right off the bat while it ‘hashed out’ the question asking him about the provincial government’s recent decision to limit the number of store licences to 25 in the initial round.

“That’s only the first round,” Hillier said. “It’s because of supply.

“It’s not a cap we’re imposing.”

“I’m aware a lot of people grow it and use it,” said Coun. John Inglis. “Our benefit initially is $5,000 (a government grant when a municipality opts in).”

“Sounds like a bribe,” said Hermer.

“It’s legal now, so if somebody wants to have a business, that’s OK with me,” said new Coun. Fred Fowler.

“It would be a great summertime business,” said Coun. Wayne Good. “Maybe we should open one here in the office.”

“It’s going to be available anyway,” said Mayor Ron Higgins, not necessarily referencing, Good’s comment.

“I think we made the right decision to let municipalities decide if they want to opt in or out,” said Hillier. “I think there will be a benefit by reducing revenue for criminal activities.

“I can see there being lower policing costs from less criminal activity.”

Clerk Tara Mieske pointed out that a retail store cannot be a home-based business.

“So I can’t run it out of my basement?” said Coun. Gerry Martin.

Cannabis Debate: South Frontenac by Wilma Kenny

In bringing the staff report on cannabis to Council, Claire Dodds, Director of Development Services, said there have been some further changes in the provincial regulations since her report was circulated to Council last Thursday. Not more than 25 retail outlets will be phased in ‘at any time’, of which a maximum of five (of the first 25) will be allocated to the Eastern Region of the Province (ie from Lindsay to Quebec). Most of these will be directed to municipalities of 50,000 or more. “Therefore, if we (South Frontenac) opt in, it’s unlikely we will have an outlet here (in the near future), but it keeps us in the conversation.”

Councillor Sutherland proposed that a motion to opt in be amended to stipulate that any outlet should be located in the LCBO stores, “so we would know where they are.” Councillor Barr said that the Province has already decided that cannabis outlets would not go into LCBO stores. Dodds said the Province has given the municipalities only one choice: to opt in or out, with no additional criteria. No one supported Sutherland’s proposed amendment.

Councillor Revill said he was reluctant to opt in, for he was not in favour of enhancing the use of cannabis, but he recognized the danger of encouraging the black market, and respects those who need cannabis as a medication.

The motion brought to Council was to opt in, and to direct staff to develop a policy statement for Council’s approval, which would assist staff with providing comments to the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Corporation of Ontario) in line with the municipal public interest on proposals for cannabis retail stores in South Frontenac. This passed in a non-recorded vote, with Councillors Sleeth and Roberts opposed.

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