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No timetable for further discussions on retail cannabis stores in Caledon

February 14, 2019   ·   0 Comments

Written By JOSHUA SANTOS

Deliberations about cannabis stores in Caledon have hit a standstill as town staff continue to do their research on the market.

At this time, the Ontario Cannabis Store’s website is the only place to purchase legal marijuana for recreational purposes.

Caledon Council decided to unanimously opt out on hosting retail cannabis stores during a meeting in January. They cited many uncertainties due to the shifting legislative framework and lack of local control and oversight over cannabis retail stores. As such, they’ve taken a cautionary pause to find out more information.

“Our primary concern is the protection of health and safety of the community,” said Mayor Allan Thompson. “There are so many unknowns right now that council is taking a wait and see approach. When we have more clarity on the issue, council can revisit the question of whether to opt in to the private retail stores model.”

Municipalities had to decide whether or not they would opt in of hosting retail cannabis stores by a January deadline and inform the Province of their decision. If they opt in, they cannot opt out. If they opt out, they can opt in at a later date but lose funding.

The first three cannabis stores in Ontario could be set up in Toronto, Brampton and St. Catharines, The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), has announced.

The Brampton store would be at 186 Main St., near a city mall, according to the Toronto Star.

The AGCO said applications for phot shops are now subject to public feedback until Feb. 20, with the stores set to open in April.

Brampton Council voted to opt-in to allow private recreational cannabis stores. This came after concerns from council stemmed from the federal and provincial governments not fully funding expected policing and health-care costs. Mayor Patrick Brown said if the city opts out, it will receive very little funding to offset those cost at all, according to the Brampton Guardian.

Opting in would mean a municipality would have receive additional funding, including a cut of a cannabis tax revenue it would not been entitled to, had it opted out.

The Province has established the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund to distribute over $40 million over two years to assist municipalities with the start-up costs of recreational cannabis stores.

In the Town of Caledon’s case, they lost out on some of that potential funding. Staff previously noted the Town would have received $29,000. Thompson called that money a trick noting council should not be influenced by it. 

New Tecumseth Council decided to opt in with Deputy Mayor Richard Norcoss acknowledging an overwhelming response by the community to an online council survey which received over 1,000 respondents. The majority of those polled were between the age of 30 to 44, with nearly 58 per cent of all participants voting strongly in favour of allowing retail cannabis locations in the community, according to the New Tecumseth Times. 

A further 65 per cent believed council should opt in immediately, with another 54 per cent indicating that they would prefer to obtain their cannabis through licensed retail locations.

An online survey was launched for Caledon where 31 per cent of respondents said they strongly support a retail cannabis store, 25 per cent said they support it and 25 per cent said they strongly oppose.

Further, 41 per cent said they never used cannabis, 21 stated they have not used cannabis for recreational purposes and 16 per cent have not used cannabis recently.

Halton Hills council decided to opt-in with an 8-3 vote and Orangeville Council opt-in as well with Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh saying they are not there to debate if cannabis is good or bad. The federal government has decided that for them, according to the Orangeville Citizen.

Coun. Todd Taylor said he was a bit conflicted on the issue stating it’s a unique time in the country to talk about something that, for much of his life, has been illegal.

“For me, though, we should allow this to go through in our town,” Coun. Taylor said. “If we opt out, that will put us at an economic disadvantage compared to some other areas in Ontario.”

“The community needs to understand that if we say no now and we opt out now, we won’t receive the money from the provincial government that we are eligible for today. To not pursue this doesn’t seem the right thing.”

On the flipside, The City of Mississauga, City of Vaughan and Town of King all decided. King Council was ahead of the game voting to opt-out in December. Council strongly opposed the private retail sale of cannabis in their municipality, according to the King Weekly Sentinel.

“I don’t want this in King,” said Mayor Steve Pellegrini at a previous council meeting Sept. 10. “I want the province to know, not in King!”

Town staff said they will continue to monitor neighbouring municipalities and the impact of retail stores on those respective communities.

The Town is not concerned with legal activity as it relates to the purchase of cannabis. Staff said members of the public who wish to consume cannabis have options to purchase the product from licensed operators, online and/or to produce cannabis for personal consumption.



         

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