Cornwall must decide on whether to allow sales, even without available licences
With the deadline to opt out less than two weeks away, city council is finally meeting on Thursday to debate whether Cornwall should allow recreational cannabis stores inside city limits.
So far, South Glengarry and South Stormont have already opted into having the stores, which means even if Cornwall were to opt out, someone could open a store to service Cornwall customers just outside city limits, on Boundary Road or Cornwall Centre Road — provided they can get a licence.
Regardless of city council’s decision Thursday, no one in the Cornwall area is getting one of those licences anytime soon. The provincial government has decided to distribute the initial retail licences by lottery. Applications for the lottery opened earlier this week, but the government is only accepting them from businesses within municipalities of at least 50,000 people.
This puts any entrepreneurs inside Cornwall out of the running for the first wave of stores that will open on April 1.
“The government has not provided a rationale for that rule, but it does mean that there is only a small amount of municipalities across the province that will be able to host stores. Even less when you consider several municipalities have already decided to opt out,” explained David Phillips, the former president of the Ontario Cannabis Store and an executive at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, who now works for the crisis public relations firm, Navigator.
There is also no way to know for sure there if will be cannabis near Cornwall at all this spring. The government plans to issue just five licences to eastern Ontario using the LCBO’s definition of the region, which includes cities like Ottawa and Kingston. Phillips said results are intended to be completely random, so it’s within the realm of possibility there wouldn’t even be a store in nearby Ottawa.
“Eastern Ontario is a bit of a strange construct, because it extends into what many people would consider Northern Ontario,” said Phillips. “The lottery process will be completely random. There’s been some custom-built software to administer the lottery and they brought (consulting firm) KPMG to serve as the monitor to make sure that it is random.
“In terms of how it will play out, I think it will be a mad dash for those who do win those 25 licences. Two-and-a-half months is not a lot of time to open a business. It will be a race against time to get the doors open.”
Ahead of the debate set for Thursday afternoon, city administrators have given city council an exhaustive report about all the details and implications of the decision.
If council decides to allow stores, administrators are recommending council should also adopt a policy statement which would outline any specific community concerns or preferences when alcohol and Gaming Commission of ontario (aGCo) eventually starts assessing licence applications for stores inside Cornwall.
when that does begin, the municipality and the public would be given a 15-day period to review the application and provide comment. The province expects the municipality to focus its own comments to whether the store’s location is in the public interest with regards to public health and safety, protecting youth and ending illegal sales of cannabis.
having a policy statement in place outlining where cannabis stores could be located or should be kept away from would give direction on what to say whenever a new licence application comes in.
“setting out these sensitive uses would specify the expectations of the community as cannabis retail sites are proposed. however, care needs to be taken so that this statement would not prohibit any cannabis retail store from locating in a municipality,” reads the report.
aGCo is not required to act on the municipality’s comments, however, and the province would not allow the city to attempt to control the location of the stores by passing zoning bylaws that would prohibit cannabis sales.
according to legislation, the stores can be located on several different kinds of commercially zoned land as long as they are at least 150 metres away from any school. The report includes a map of where these areas are and shows a cannabis store could be opened through much of downtown and up Pitt street, along Brookdale avenue, the Cotton Mills, le Village, Cornwall square, and the malls on second street east.
although the city would be unable to control cannabis retail stores through the use of zoning bylaws, there are other businesses that may – or already have – start popping up in Cornwall due to legalization such as production, processing, and research that may require a zoning bylaw from the city. The city already tweaked its land-use rules to allow for facilities that produce medical marijuana, though none has yet been granted a licence to begin production from health Canada.
other aspects to weigh going into the decision to opt in or out are the potential economic and social impacts. The report to council notes allowing stores in Cornwall would create jobs and because there is an obvious demand for recreational pot, it would keep residents shopping locally, rather than heading to stories in places like ottawa.
aGCo has already set out operating standards for the store premises, security, record keeping and advertising, but the Cornwall police are recommending council back these up bypassing a by law requiring strict adherence to those standards.
Because Cornwall will not be part of the first round of store openings, the police department intends to focus its efforts to prevent sales to minors, stoned driving and smuggling cannabis by boat across the river.
The report also includes concerns from the city’s recreation department about the probability people would smoke cannabis in local parks. legislation currently places smoking cannabis under the same restrictions as cigarettes: nine metres away from public building entrances and 20 metres from children’s play structures. The department notes kids do not play just on park playgrounds.
“Children commonly engage in play activities throughout our park spaces and therefore could be exposed to second-hand cannabis smoke outside of these restricted areas. also, we expect that many of the parents of the children who access our park spaces will object to any permitted use of cannabis within proximity to their children,” reads the report.
It will be a lotto take in and discuss, but Mayor Bernadette Clement says she is eager to dig into the issues on Thursday evening.
“Cannabis is a file that’s evolving, so it can be hard to keep track of all the information. But what we want to do is to make sure that council has good background information because we will have to make a decision before Jan. 22,” said the mayor. “I can’t say whether we will make a final decision on Thursday, because that will depend on what the council wants to do.
“If they need more information, there is still some time to get that and make a decision on Jan. 14.” [email protected]media.com twitter.com/alan_s_hale