Why not weed?
With the municipal election gearing up, I wanted to bring back my Why Not series of columns and ask why not allow marijuana to be sold by private vendors in Cornwall.
Last week, I wrote a story where I got comments from each mayoral candidate in Cornwall on their stance on the issue. Only one candidate, David Murphy, said that he was ready to say that he was in favour of private vendors in this municipality.
Two of the other candidates, Bernadette Clement and Leslie O’shaughnessy had reservations they felt needed to be addressed before they could say yes. Both candidates felt that there were missing details from the province’s roll out plan that would need to be ironed out.
I don’t think any of the missing details are enough to convince me say no to private vendors.
One concern that Mayor O’shaughnessy has is that it is unclear whether municipalities will be allowed to limit the number of marijuana shops in their jurisdiction. I feel like if there is no limit on marijuana shops in Cornwall, that that’s not really a problem. Not all of them will be able to survive. Let the free market decide how many marijuana shops Cornwall needs.
Councillor Bernadette Clement said she is not worried about opting in but is worried about the amount of money the province is promising to help municipalities combat safety issues, $40 million. I think she’s right in that when spread out across the province, $40 million seems like a small amount, but I also have faith that our police service and our health unit will be prepared to deal with any issues. After all, alcohol is a controlled substance and the amount of crime reported in and around liquor stores doesn’t seem to be significant.
I do agree with Clement’s concerns about the location of these private vendors. We do not want them to be too close to schools or in other areas that might be undesirable. I think scenarios like these will be rare though, and that the community will be able to have its voice heard when they do arise.
Candidates also pointed out that if Cornwall was the only municipality in the region that opted out, that it wouldn’t have any meaningful effect. Again, this is correct, Cornwall cannot risk being the only municipality in the region being left out of this new market. I would rather want to see Cornwall risk being the only municipality in the area that allows private vendors than being the only municipality that doesn’t.
The good news for residents of Cornwall is that whether or not the municipality opts out, those who want weed, will still be able to get it through the province’s online store. However, if Cornwall chooses to opt out, then our city will be left out of the market and will be missing out on much needed revenue from having these potentially lucrative businesses in our jurisdiction.
Granted, if Cornwall does choose to opt out, it can always opt back in at a later time, but the window to get into the marijuana market may have closed by that time. If by the time we opt back in, private vendors have established themselves in neighbouring municipalities, then all we would have done is make it harder on our own entrepreneurial sellers. Additionally, Cornwall would miss the $40 million being offered by the province if it opts out of the program.
The legalization of marijuana is a historically significant national moment and now municipalities have a part to play in that moment. Everyone running for council, from the mayoral candidates on down will need to be prepared on day one to decide whether Cornwall will opt out, because this will be the first major decision the new council makes and I hope they choose to step into this new market. What do you think readers? Should Cornwall opt out and not allow private marijuana vendors? Email me a Letter to the Editor with your thoughts at email@example.com