| Dec 12, 2018

Among local councils, Addington Highlands has been the most pro-active over cannabis regulations.

This is, at least in part, because the township was notified by residents several months ago that two separate growing operations were up and running within its borders. One of them is an open-air plantation, and the other appears to be a greenhouse operation that is just getting going.

The township heard about one of the operations from a resident who expressed a concern over the smell.

After making inquiries to the OPP and the federal government, the township found out that the operations are federally regulated medical marijuana operations. Not only does the township have no jurisdiction over them, but the federal government will not even respond to requests for information.

“The only group that has any control over medical marijuana is the government of Canada,” said Reeve Henry Hogg. “I don’t mind saying I find this rather frustrating.”

Council met this week in a special session to talk about cannabis retailing, and once again they found their options are rather limited.

“We have the ability to opt in or opt out,” said Hogg, “but if we opt in, we can’t pass any kind of zoning restrictions. The stores, which must be free standing, also need to be located 150 metres away from a school or a community centre, but we can’t impose any other limitations on numbers or on location. Any commercial location is available.”

The township will be receiving $5,000 to cover added costs related to cannabis, and if it says yes to cannabis retailing it will receive another $5,000 next year and will be eligible for funding in future years.

If the township says no, it can say yes later on, but once it says yes it can never rescind that approval

And any jurisdiction that turns down cannabis retailing before the January 22 deadline, may also be forfeiting eligibility for further funding.

“The Province is setting aside $10 million of the municipal funding to address costs from unforeseen circumstances related to the legalisation of recreational cannabis, and priority will be given to municipalities that have not opted-out. Further details will be provided at a later date,” said Ontario Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, in a letter to municipalities on November 20.

A week later, the Deputy Ontario Finance Minister Greg Orencsak sent a letter to municipal treasurers containing further details about municipal funding. The total amount of provincial funding has been set at $40 million, to be doled out over 2 years. Orencsak’s letter underlined that municipalities that opt out will be forfeiting provincial money.

“If a municipality has opted-out of hosting private retail stores in accordance with the Cannabis License Act, it will receive a maximum of $5,000. Please note that if a municipality opts-out by January 22, 2019, and opts back in at a later date, that municipality will not be eligible for additional funding,” said Orencsak.

The money that will ultimately be allocated from the $40 million fund, is restricted to specific uses as well. It can only be used for increased enforcement costs, increased responses to public inquiries, increased paramedic or fire services, or bylaw/policy development.

At their meeting this week, Addington Highlands Council decided to consult the public before making a decision on the matter. They will be holding public meetings, one in at the Flinton Recreation Centre at 6:30pm on Monday, January 8, and another at the Denbigh Hall at 6:30pm on Wednesday, January 10th.

North Frontenac Council will be discussing their position on Cannabis retailing at their meeting later this week.

Municipalities are not required to consider the question of Cannabis retailing in detail. The opt out option is the only one that requires municipal action. Municipalities that do not act will automatically opt in.

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