A ‘wait­ing ’ game for lo­cal im­pact of pot le­gal­iza­tion

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JONATHAN JUHA STAFF RE­PORTER

Mayor Dan Mathieson said it was to be ex­pected that Strat­ford wasn’t in­cluded in the first wave of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties cho­sen by the province to have gov­ern­ment-run mar­i­juana out­lets by next year.

But more in­for­ma­tion will be needed from up­per lev­els of gov­ern­ments, he added, to de­ter­mine the real im­pacts the roll­out of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion will have in the city and whether not be­ing in­cluded in the first wave was a pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive de­vel­op­ment.

The province an­nounced last week the first cities where the province will open stand-alone LCBO-like stores that will be au­tho­rized to sell pot.

Out of the 14 cities cho­sen, only three are lo­cated in south­west­ern On­tario – Lon­don, Wind­sor and Kitch­ener.

The other cities are Bar­rie, Brampton, Hamil­ton, Kingston, Mis­sis­sauga, Ot­tawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sud­bury, Thun­der Bay, Toronto and Vaughan.

I do know there will be so­cial costs and there will be po­lice costs.” Dan Mathieson, mayor

“It’s not sur­pris­ing we weren’t in­cluded in the first round,” Mathieson said. “I knew, based on cen­sus met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas, places like Lon­don to the south and Kitch­ener to the east prob­a­bly had a bet­ter prob­a­bil­ity of oc­cur­ring, and I think that is what we saw hap­pen­ing.”

While not in­cluded in the first round, Mathieson said Strat­ford, as many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties around the coun­try, will even­tu­ally have to face the ef­fects of le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana use and hav­ing le­gal out­lets sell­ing pot in the city.

“I would say that it is in­evitable. If that’s the province’s strat­egy, in­evitably it will come to this com­mu­nity, and we need to get pre­pared for that,” he said of the province’s plan, which an­tic­i­pates the num­ber of le­gal dis­pen­saries in the province will be 150 by 2020. How the city pre­pares, how­ever, will de­pend on how the province and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­cide to move for­ward. And that won’t be pos­si­ble un­til more de­tails are made avail­able, Mathieson said. “I do know there will be so­cial costs and there will be po­lice costs. I don’t know what the pro­jec­tions are be­cause we have not been given them by the province on what the shar­ing rev­enue is to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” he said. “I know the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has clearly in­di­cated what they are plan­ning to do on rev­enue shar­ing with the province, but at some point, the ser­vices and ef­fects will be felt at the lo­cal level, and we need to know where we are at.

“But it’s early days for us to make those de­ter­mi­na­tions, and we are wait­ing for more in­for­ma­tion.”

From a polic­ing stand­point, new act­ing po­lice Chief Gerry Fos­ter said the Strat­ford Po­lice Ser­vice is ready to deal with the changes.

“As the leg­is­la­tion ap­pears to be now, it re­ally is rel­a­tively straight­for­ward and not dis­sim­i­lar to the Liquor Li­cense Act … so I think we’ll par­al­lel that, and we might need to ad­dress some train­ing is­sues, but I think we are in a good shape,” he said.

For him, the most im­me­di­ate im­pact could re­late to the num­ber of im­paired driv­ing cases in the city.

“There’s prob­a­bly a good chance that im­paired driv­ing by this drug will in­crease,” he said.

Yet Fos­ter said he’s con­fi­dent about the po­lice’s level of ex­pe­ri­ence and the types of re­sources avail­able.

“We have a good num­ber of our of­fi­cers trained as ‘stan­dard­ized field so­bri­ety test’ of­fi­cers who are able to con­duct test­ing in the field to as­sess im­pair­ment by drug,” he said. “We have also in­vested in three drug recog­ni­tion ex­perts for the of­fi­cers on the road … and they are ca­pa­ble to eval­u­ate peo­ple and de­ter­mine what kind of drug, if any, the per­son might be im­paired by.

“I think we are pretty well po­si­tioned.”

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