The case for opt­ing out

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS -

Not long after Canada be­came the second coun­try to le­gal­ize recre­ational cannabis use, some politi­cians started vow­ing to ban le­gal pot shops.

Already, more than 24 On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have no­ti­fied the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario (AGCO), the prov­ince’s pot reg­u­la­tor, that they’re bar­ring mar­i­juana re­tail­ers after their civic coun­cils ap­proved do­ing so.

The move by those mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, which rep­re­sent just a frac­tion of On­tario’s more than 400, can be re­versed at any time.

In Bland­ford-Blen­heim, a town­ship north­east of Wood­stock with fewer than 8,000 res­i­dents, politi­cians unan­i­mously sup­ported opt­ing out of hosting dis­pen­saries.

“We thought we’d let the big cities and the other areas go through the grow­ing pains,” Mayor Mark Peter­son said, adding res­i­dents can drive else­where — pos­si­bly to nearby Wood­stock or Kitch­en­erWater­loo, de­pend­ing where the first stores roll out — to visit a pot re­tailer.

Council is un­likely to re­verse its decision to opt out, a move that cost the town­ship $5,000 in provin­cial fund­ing, Peter­son said.

“It’s not worth it for us, for that kind of money,” he said of the un­cer­tain­ties cannabis re­tail­ing may bring.

A key con­cerns raised by com­mu­ni­ties in favour of opt­ing out is the lack of con­trol they have over zon­ing of dis­pen­saries. The AGCO will ul­ti­mately ap­prove where dis­pen­saries open and only re­quire the stores be at least 150 me­tres from schools and meet phys­i­cal se­cu­rity re­quire­ments.

Wind­sor Mayor Drew Dilkens wants his city to say no to pot shops, at least for now.

“Frankly, I don’t be­lieve the reg­u­la­tions go far enough to pro­tect ex­ist­ing busi­nesses and other agen­cies that are op­er­at­ing in the city,” Dilkens said, not­ing the 150me­tre buf­fer rule for schools also should ap­ply to day cares and men­tal health treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

“Now that we’re only go­ing to have 25 stores in the prov­ince . . . there’s re­ally no risk to opt out,” he said.

There’s es­pe­cially strong opposition to mar­i­juana re­tail­ers in Es­sex County, where Te­cum­seh, Lakeshore and LaSalle have banned the busi­nesses.

Wind­sor politi­cians will vote on the issue Jan. 21. If the bor­der city does opt out, it would be the largest mu­nic­i­pal­ity out­side the Greater Toronto Area to do so.

Dilkens high­lighted prob­lems he saw dur­ing a 2016 trip to Den­ver, Colo., where pot shops have op­er­ated since the state be­came the first in the United States to le­gal­ize recre­ational cannabis in 2014.

“The trou­bling part was the type of ac­tiv­ity that hap­pened out­side (dis­pen­saries),” he said, cit­ing be­hav­iour such as loi­ter­ing and pan­han­dling. “Stuff that would make many peo­ple un­com­fort­able.”

“I know there will be some is­sues de­pend­ing on where a cannabis re­tail shop is placed, cer­tain ones will have more is­sues than oth­ers,” Dilkens said.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of On­tario, an um­brella group for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, says it’s stay­ing neu­tral on the issue, urg­ing its mem­bers to voice their con­cerns about zon­ing is­sues to the AGCO by draft­ing policy state­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.