Public asked to weigh in on cannabis

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Clearview Township is ready to have the talk about cannabis. 

On Jan. 7, council has invited the public to attend a consultation session and share their views on allowing cannabis retail locations in the municipality. 

That same night council will consider a recommendation from CAO Steve Sage to opt out, and advise the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) that Clearview does not wish to host cannabis retail stores in the community at this time. 

Mayor Doug Measures said he wants council to hear from members of the public before council considers Sage’s report on recreational cannabis in Clearview.

“I want the public to have an opportunity to bring forward their ideas, their suggestions, their concerns,” said Measures.  

It is a necessary conversation for council but it is also a moot point for a municipality of this size, at least for now.

The province has given municipalities a deadline of Jan. 22 to opt out of hosting private cannabis retail stores. If a resolution saying as much is not passed before the deadline, a municipality automatically opts in to the program by default. However, the government of Ontario has also said that there are 25 licences available in this first round, none of which are available to municipalities with a population of 50,000 or under.  

According to the AGCO, given the shortage of legal cannabis supply from federally licensed producers, the government will allow private cannabis retail stores to open in phases and has provided the AGCO the authority to license up to 25 stores in the initial phase. A lottery, conducted by the AGCO, will be held to determine who will be able to apply for one of the 25 initial stores.

Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada as of Oct. 17. Consumers 19 or older are able to consume, purchase, and grow recreational cannabis through online retail platforms operated by the Ontario Cannabis Store but it won’t be sold legally in retail locations until April 1.

If a municipality chooses to opt out, it is able to opt back in at any time, but once a municipality opts in it will not be allowed to opt out.

It is unclear at this point when there will be another phase of licensing of recreational cannabis retail stores and if Clearview would qualify. 

“Given the changes in the legislation and the direction that the cabinet of the Province of Ontario government is making changes, we can’t be certain but we do know this, that we have opted in for cannabis production in our community and that’s certainly part of our economy and our commerce so it is in our community,” said Measures, pointing out that Clearview residents do have access to recreational cannabis through online sales. 

“It’s a silly process that the province is making us opt in or opt out. I think we need to allow some time to pass to see what the community reaction really is to cannabis in our community. It’s not so different than in the 1920s when prohibition was lifted and alcohol started flowing throughout the community. So, we’ll see how it all plays out.”

Sage raises other issues for consideration in his report, one being funding: The province has committed $40 million in funding over two years. Clearview has 6,243 households. The province has committed $127.50 per household for a total of $7,960 to Clearview. 

Municipalities that opt out will receive a maximum of $5,000 on the second installment, reported Sage. 

There is also the issue of planning controls with regards to location and what effect retail cannabis stores may have on other businesses, in terms of being an economic driver, or not. 

“If the municipality opts out, it will enable more time to research and consider the effects of retail stores on other locations. It will also allow more time for the municipality to have a good understanding of all the provincial requirements that are, as of the writing of this letter, not yet determined,” writes Sage.

The Jan. 7 meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at town hall, 217 Gideon St. in Stayner. People are also invited to submit written comments to [email protected]

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