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Caledon seeks public input on cannabis stores

December 20, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By JOSHUA SANTOS

Caledon council wants feedback from residents on the establishment of cannabis retail stores.

An open house presentation was set up in town hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. before the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18. A survey is also available online on the Town’s website until Jan. 4 2019. 

 A majority of councillors want to opt out but the final decision will be delayed until January as they consult with the public and receive more information. 

“We just don’t have enough information yet and it also gives us time to see what some of our neighbouring municipalities do and see what kind of best practices we can share there, said Ward 1 Area Coun. Lynn Kiernan at a Dec. 11 commitee meeting. We’re being asked to make a decision with really not enough due diligence, in my opinion.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is responsible for authorizing and siting cannabis retail stores thereby minimizing the control which municipalities may have over locations, according to a Town report.

It further notes municipalities have a one-time window to opt-out of permitting cannabis retail stores within their boundaries. If council chooses to opt out, they must pass a resolution by Jan. 22 2019 stating their desire to not host cannabis stores.

This follows a late development Thursday, Dec. 13 where the provincial government announced plans for a phased approach to cannabis retail licensing due to a national supply shortage. 

“It is the federal government’s responsibility to oversee cannabis production and to provide a viable alternative to the illegal market by ensuring there is sufficient supply to meet consumer demand, a statement reads. Yet, we continue to see severe supply shortages across the country in legal, licensed recreational cannabis stores.”

At a recent meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers in Ottawa, Provincial Minister Vic Fedeli, raised the issue of a severe shortage of supply across the country with Federal Minister Bill Morneau, according to a news release.

Ontario’s government will issue up to 25 licenses for operators to open their business on April 1. 

The AGCO will implement a lottery system to determine who is eligible for the initial licenses to legally operate a store in Ontario. All interested parties will be able to submit an expression of interest form online to the AGCO from Jan. 7 2019 to Jan. 9, according to a news release.

“I think this is really one of the biggest decisions we’re going to make as council, said Mayor Allan Thompson. We want to make sure we want to get it right and we need to have the community understanding why we’re doing it. I do believe the majority of the community doesn’t want it but we want to make sure we’re protecting it.”

Town staff confirmed that if they opt out, they have the option to opt in at a later date. If they opt in, however, they can’t opt out later on. Subsequently, cannabis stores can be placed in every village in Caledon with a privatized model. 

“That’s why we’re recommending in the report to opt out and do some public consultation, look at how other municipalities are dealing with it and if there’s appetite later on, we can then opt in at that time,” said Laura Hall, interim general manager of corporate services. 

Ward 5 regional coun. Annette Groves tabled a motion to opt out while Ward 2. Regional Coun. Johanna Downey wanted to refer it back to January. 

“I think the general population tends to continue to look at it through an illicit lens, said Downey. My instinct says I’d rather be at the table in disagreement than not at the table at all.”

The motion was amended to have town administration report back with more information, host the open house and subsequently release a survey for public input. The documents will then come back to a committee meeting on Jan. 15 and then Jan. 22 for a final decision.

There are some drawbacks, however if council does decide to opt out. 

“The only thing we would lose out on if we opt in after January 22 2019, is funding, said Hall. From what I understand from the Province, if you opt in before that time, you can have the possibility of receiving funds through the Ontario Tax Revenue if the revenues exceeding $100 million. 

The Province has confirmed that it will distribute $40 million over two years to help municipalities with the implementation costs of recreational cannabis legalization. 

“That’s the only crux of opting in after, is potentially losing out on funding. Funding can be only be used towards cannabis. It’s not just a blank cheque with money you can use for anything.”

If no decision is made by Jan 22, municipalities will automatically be opted in.  Thompson called the $29,000, that the provincial government is offering, a trick noting council should not be influenced by it.

“It is a drop in the bucket, said Groves. This is how provincial governments and the federal government; they give us all these things and then at the end of the day, we’re stuck with it. We have to keep finding funding to deal with it, enforce it and do everything we need to do, forever.”

“We really need to protect our community. I certainty will like to hear from the police, as well on their thoughts on this because they are our enforcers and they are dealing with this.” 

Nearby municipalities had previously taken steps towards opting out such as King Township which adopted a resolution to advise the Province of their opposition and Markham authorized their city clerk to provide notification of their intent to opt out. 

The town report states ‘Further, as a main goal of legalization is protecting youth, the nearby Upper Grand District School Board has urged municipalities adjacent to Caledon to opt out of hosting cannabis retail stores until there is a clearer understanding of the social and financial impacts of legalization siting concerns including increased addiction, mental health and discipline in schools.’ 

“Now that we understand what they’re talking about, we need to opt out at this point and time to understand where things land but I think the public needs to understand where council decisions are going, said Thompson. January is going to come quick and fast and before we know it, it’s going to be the 22nd where we have the final decision where it has to be made by.”



         

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