Extend cannabis deadline for municipalities under 50,000

 In Opinion

It is unfair of the provincial government to ask municipalities to make a decision on cannabis retail without having all the facts. 

When recreational cannabis was in the process of being legalized by the federal government, there were to be no caps on licensing but now the provincial government is saying that in a first phase of authorizations from Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO), only 25 licences will be issued in this first phase with stores opening on April 1. (A maximum of five retail store authorizations is allocated in respect of cannabis retail stores to be located in the Toronto Region; A maximum of six to be located in the GTA Region; A maximum of five to be located in the East Region; A maximum of two to be located in the North Region; and a maximum of seven to be located in the West Region.)

None of them are to be located in a municipality with a population of less than 50,000.

As we understand it, all municipal councils are tasked with passing a resolution by Jan. 22 if they wish to opt out of being a willing host to recreational cannabis retail stores. Those who don’t will opt in by default. Those that choose to opt out can opt back in at any time but once they opt in, they can’t opt out.  

There is no information as of yet about the next phase(s) of authorizations.

With a late-in-the-game release of the rules, the government should delay the deadline for municipalities with a population under 50,000. Other municipalities voted before or very close to the announcement of these changes.

Councils cannot be expected to make sound, informed decisions before all the information is available, and to put councillors and staff against a deadline that is no longer relevant to municipalities like ours is puzzling. 

We are not necessarily in a huge rush to see recreational cannabis retail stores pop up in town but it feels as though the provincial government is incentivizing the opt out option with a lack of information, even though there is a financial incentive to opt in.

In October, we said that it would be hypocritical of Clearview to opt out seeing as it embraced cannabis production early on, voting to treat it like any other crop. But now, opting out seems like a reasonable choice since there are so many unknowns. Why not opt out, wait for the process to shake out, and then opt in once it’s reasonable. There isn’t very much money at stake and the financial risks are not clear. As it is, the province is only providing $40 million over two years to help municipalities with the costs of recreational cannabis legalization.

It was late September when the provincial government said there would be no caps, weeks later small cities and towns learn they are shut out of the first phase of licensing, what surprises are coming next?

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