Na­pa­nee mulls cannabis de­ci­sion

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NEWS - MEGHAN BALOGH

Greater Na­pa­nee hosted a pub­lic meet­ing on Thurs­day night to dis­cuss whether the mu­nic­i­pal­ity should opt out of cannabis re­tail out­lets.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has un­til Jan. 22 to de­cide to opt out in writ­ing to the On­tario gov­ern­ment. If it does opt out, it can opt in again at a later date.

With­out that no­tice by Jan. 22, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity will au­to­mat­i­cally opt in.

Just over two dozen lo­cal res­i­dents at­tended the meet­ing, which was moved from town hall to the South Fred­er­icks­burgh Hall at the south­ern end of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in an­tic­i­pa­tion of po­ten­tially large at­tendee num­bers.

Cit­i­zens and Greater Na­pa­nee town coun­cil heard an out­line of the pri­va­tized re­tail plat­form that will grant lot­tery win­ners the chance to ap­ply for 25 cannabis re­tail li­cences.

CAO Ray Callery spoke about the re­tail model that will un­fold for cannabis store­fronts in On­tario this year and en­cour­aged coun­cil to con­sider a num­ber of fac­tors be­fore de­cid­ing whether to opt out of al­low­ing cannabis re­tail stores in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity go­ing for­ward.

Callery said that if the mu­nic­i­pal­ity opts in, coun­cil must have its in­put on how cannabis re­tail­ers should be reg­u­lated in towns and cities across the prov­ince ready to sub­mit within 15 days. That in­put is not leg­isla­tive but gives the gov­ern­ment ideas on what mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would like to see, such as sep­a­ra­tion dis­tance from pub­lic or mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices, churches, parks and more.

Cur­rently, the only sep­a­ra­tion dis­tance out­lined by the AGCO is a 150-me­tre set­back from schools.

Callery asked coun­cil to con­sider not only the opt-in, opt-out ques­tion, but also whether the mu­nic­i­pal­ity should de­velop pol­icy to sub­mit to the AGCO to help guide its li­cens­ing con­sid­er­a­tions, whether coun­cil wished to in­vest in spe­cial­ized map­ping of “ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tions,” and whether coun­cil wanted to ex­plore the costs and re­source de­mand as­so­ci­ated with re­spond­ing to the AGCO in 15 days of opt-in, and en­force­ment is­sues that could come along with host­ing cannabis re­tail stores in Greater Na­pa­nee.

Whether Na­pa­nee chooses to opt in or not, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity will not see a cannabis store­front any­time soon, un­less the AGCO al­ters its cri­te­ria that state that li­censed busi­ness own­ers can only open a store in com­mu­ni­ties with a pop­u­la­tion of 50,000 or more.

“That doesn’t mean that if sup­ply in­creases or there is a change in sup­ply that ad­di­tional things are [or aren’t] go­ing hap­pen right af­ter that,” Callery said. “There are no time­lines.”

If mu­nic­i­pal pop­u­la­tion thresh­olds change in the fu­ture, and Greater Na­pa­nee opts in, it could be el­i­gi­ble to split $10,000 from the prov­ince’s cannabis rev­enues with its up­per-tier mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, Len­nox and Ad­ding­ton County.

Callery pointed out that Greater Na­pa­nee is cur­rently home to two li­censed cannabis pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, VIVO Cannabis and Bea­con Med­i­cal, which could fac­tor into coun­cil’s de­ci­sion.

More than 50 cannabis re­tail store­fronts are lo­cated on the Tyen­d­i­naga Mo­hawk Ter­ri­tory, a 10-minute drive from Na­pa­nee. That means Na­pa­nee res­i­dents al­ready have easy ac­cess to cannabis prod­ucts, some­thing that Callery said should be fac­tored into the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s de­ci­sion to opt in or out.

“They have their own in­ter­nal reg­u­lat­ing body that they’ve es­tab­lished,” Callery said. “It’s nei­ther good nor bad, that’s just the re­al­ity of our sit­u­a­tion in our com­mu­nity.”

Sarah Tryon, a pub­lic health pro­moter with Kingston, Fron­tenac and Len­nox and Ad­ding­ton Pub­lic Health, spoke to coun­cil dur­ing the pub­lic meet­ing about the po­ten­tial risks in­volved with cannabis store­fronts in com­mu­ni­ties.

“KFL&A will not be pro­vid­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion, per se, but we re­spect­fully ask that coun­cil in­clude the fol­low­ing con­sid­er­a­tions from a pub­lic health per­spec­tive through their de­lib­er­a­tions on the is­sue,” Tryon said.

Tryon pointed out that health care, lost pro­duc­tiv­ity, crim­i­nal jus­tice and other costs re­lated to cannabis use from 2007 to 2014 in On­tario was ap­prox­i­mately $1.2 mil­lion, and that cannabis use in On­tario is re­spon­si­ble for the fourth great­est pro­por­tion of costs at­trib­ut­able to sub­stance use.

She also pointed out that phys­i­cal avail­abil­ity of le­gal sub­stances such as al­co­hol and to­bacco in­crease re­lated harms, such as in­creased con­sump­tion, in­creased nor­mal­iza­tion and num­ber of trau­mas.

A hand­ful of lo­cal res­i­dents pro­vided in­put to coun­cil, most of them in favour of an opt-in de­ci­sion.

Paul Lan­si­maki, a re­tired OPP of­fi­cer who at­tended the meet­ing wear­ing a VIVO Cannabis T-shirt, spoke about what he felt was the im­por­tance of le­gal ac­cess.

“In my ca­reer, I can safely say that, in terms of crim­i­nal­ity, I dealt with al­co­hol-re­lated of­fences one hun­dred­fold more than I did with cannabis-re­lated,” he said. “As a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer, I’d like to see law-abid­ing cit­i­zens have a safe lo­ca­tion to get some­thing if they’re go­ing to get any­thing, as op­posed to go­ing eight kilo­me­tres down the road [to Tyen­d­i­naga] and pur­chas­ing some­thing that we re­ally know noth­ing about. We don’t know if it’s safe or not.”

Lan­si­maki said he now works for VIVO Cannabis, a lo­cal li­censed pro­ducer, but he was speak­ing strictly as a cit­i­zen.

“I think it would be short­sighted for coun­cil to opt out at this time,” Lan­si­maki said. “I think this lends an op­por­tu­nity to be a re­spon­si­ble town to look af­ter its cit­i­zens.”

Oth­ers said they wanted to learn more about the prov­ince’s plan be­fore opt­ing in.

“I feel un­com­fort­able at this stage opt­ing in to some­thing that has so many un­knowns,” Hans Bich­sel, a Na­pa­nee res­i­dent, said.

MEGHAN BALOGH/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Greater Na­pa­nee town coun­cil held a pub­lic meet­ing on Thurs­day to dis­cuss whether the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would like to opt out of cannabis re­tail stores. The de­ci­sion dead­line is Jan. 22.

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