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Retail cannabis deadline calls for quick decisions by municipalities

Retail cannabis deadline calls for quick decisions by municipalities


The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is the regulator for privately run recreational cannabis stores. The AGCO will be defining the licensing process for private retailers, working closely with the province to license private stores, ready to open for business by April 1.

The deadline for municipalities to decide on whether or not they will allow retailers to operate within their jurisdictions is January 22. Councils that opt out of private sales can opt back in at a later date. But if they opt in, they may not opt back out. All municipal governments will receive at least $10,000 to support transition to legal cannabis. A portion of surplus funds would also be divided among those municipalities that have opted in. The province will announce the full funding allocation in the future.

Timeline for cannibus retailing 

As of this date, 67 municipalities in Ontario have made their decision. So far, 44 have opted in, while 23 have opted out.

On January 3, Grey Highlands hosted a public forum to discuss the decision facing the municipality. A small crowd of approximately 30 residents attended the meeting but very few spoke on the subject when given the opportunity to have their say. Of the four people who took to the mic, none opposed the move to allow cannibus retailing in the municipality.

In fact, it was also revealed that a pole recently taken on the Connect Grey Highlands website showed that only 19% of respondents indicated their desire to opt out.

Grey Highlands will make their final decision at a council meeting on January 16.

In Southgate, municipal staff brought a report to council on December 19 recommending that council opt out, until they have time to hold public consultations and properly review the new rules and regulations. "I also wanted to wait until the fall when we received additional information on regulations on the Bill," stated municipal clerk Joanne Hyde. Details of the report are found on page 67 of the Council minutes. The report was accepted and the recommendation was adopted.

Similarly, a report to Council was made by West Grey municipal staff recommending public consultation prior to making a decision to opt in or out. The full report is available online. Members of the public had the opportunity to have their voices heard in a public forum open-mic on January 8 during the regular meeting of Council. An online survey was also conducted on the municipal website.

Following the January 8 meeting, and considering the results of the community survey, comments from West Grey Police and information from public health, West Grey Council voted unanimously at its council meeting to opt in, thereby permitting retail cannabis locations in the municipality.

The West Grey survey closed January 3 with 364 respondents. As well, approximately 12 members of the public were present for the public meeting, with four residents coming forward to provide public comment. “In addition to the 74% of respondents (in the online survey) who said 'yes' to opting in, Council considered all of the input from survey participants and delegates at today’s public meeting to reach an informed decision," said West Grey Mayor Christine Robinson.

Not all of the restrictions on retailers for the sale of cannabis are known yet but some have already been announced. For one thing, stores must observe minimum distances from schools in place of local planning controls. Other sensitivities may also be addressed during the licensing process. Additionally, the province will harmonize cannabis with the current rules for places of use for tobacco under the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

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