City opts in for pot re­tail by de­fault

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - THOMAS PERRY David Lan­ders, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer for the City of Tim­mins

By choos­ing not to opt out, the City of Tim­mins is all in when it comes to be­com­ing a po­ten­tial lo­ca­tion for a re­tail cannabis out­let.

It should be noted, how­ever, that con­cerned cit­i­zens likely won’t see any such re­tail cannabis out­let sprout­ing up in their neigh­bour­hood — or any­where else in the city, for that mat­ter — any­time soon.

Chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Dave Lan­ders pre­sented a re­port to city coun­cil dur­ing Tues­day night’s meet­ing, up­dat­ing where things stand after the le­gal­iza­tion of the drug last year.

“There are a few points of in­flec­tion or de­ci­sion that coun­cil may make, but to be clear this re­port isn’t put forth to dis­cuss whether cannabis is good or bad,” he said.

“The gov­ern­ment has made its de­ci­sion. It has le­gal­ized it. What we need to do as a mu­nic­i­pal­ity is plan our way for­ward.

“As of Oc­to­ber, peo­ple have been able to pur­chase cannabis legally from the On­tario Cannabis Re­tail Cor­po­ra­tion un­der the guise of the AGCO ( Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario).

“There are, how­ever, some is­sues I think we should be dis­cussing from a mu­nic­i­pal per­spec­tive.

“Go­ing for­ward, the sale of cannabis in re­tail es­tab­lish­ments will be en­abled within the prov­ince. It has an­nounced there are some de­lay dates for what­ever rea­son, sup­ply or what­not.”

Cur­rent plans call for the prov­ince to only ini­tially li­cence 25 re­tail op­er­a­tions through­out On­tario — only two of which will be in the North.

“As a mu­nic­i­pal­ity, we need to fig­ure this out in the long run not just for the first 25 and what it will mean for us,” Lan­ders said.

“Un­less coun­cil opts out, the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­tail store for the sale of cannabis is per­mis­sive in On­tario.

“What we do know is smok­ing recre­ational cannabis in On­tario will be le­gal where tobacco con­sump­tion is per­mit­ted un­der the Smoke Free On­tario Act, how­ever, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties can en­act some stricter by­laws.

“That would be a con­sid­er­a­tion for coun­cil. In meet­ings with the Por­cu­pine Health Unit, they have cau­tioned from a health- pro­mo­tion per­spec­tive, they are rec­om­mend­ing coun­cil con­sider this more along the lines of how al­co­hol is treated.

“A cou­ple of other com­mu­ni­ties, Markham and Gananoque, have spe­cific rules in place which pro­hibit smok­ing or va­p­ing of cannabis in pub­lic places.

“An­other con­sid­er­a­tion for coun­cil is when the prov­ince starts li­cens­ing re­tail sales, that will be done at the provin­cial end and they do have some rules set in place.”

Those rules in­clude things like spe­cific hours of op­er­a­tion, min­i­mum sepa­ra­tion dis­tance from schools, as well as the phys­i­cal fea­tures of a re­tail cannabis out­let and some of the se­cu­rity re­quire­ments.

“The health unit sug­gests while the AGCO doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to lis­ten to any ob­jec­tions, should they be raised, if you don’t have a pol­icy frame­work, you are prob­a­bly not go­ing to be lis­tened to at all,” Lan­ders said.

“Some of their rec­om­men­da­tions in terms of a mu­nic­i­pal pol­icy re­lated to what we would ex­pect from cannabis re­tail sales in­clude things like mak­ing sure there is not a high den­sity of re­tail sales.

“The prov­ince could con­ceiv­ably li­cense back to back to back to back stores on the same street for cannabis sales and the health unit is rec­om­mend­ing coun­cil ob­ject to that sort of setup.

“Fur­ther, that the prox­im­ity to sen­si­tive spa­ces be con­sid­ered, as well, by coun­cil. While there is the min­i­mum sepa­ra­tion from places like schools, it should in­clude other places like com­mu­nity cen­tres and child- care cen­tres, as well, and that per­haps coun­cil con­sider a fur­ther sepa­ra­tion other than 150 me­tres.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the ev­i­dence they have looked at points to the fact when you com­bine cannabis re­tail stores close to LCBO stores it is a recipe for a bit of dan­ger. They are rec­om­mend­ing coun­cil con­sider a sepa­ra­tion dis­tance be­tween those two types of lo­ca­tions.

“Fi­nally, that re­tail hours be curbed so that it is not a 24- hour ser­vice, but mind you that wouldn’t be al­lowed un­der provin­cial rules.”

There was lit­tle ap­petite around the coun­cil ta­ble to have Tim­mins opt out of be­ing an even­tual lo­ca­tion for the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­tail cannabis out­let — es­pe­cially given that Lan­ders pointed out peo­ple would still be able to pur­chase it through mail sales or by driv­ing to a nearby com­mu­nity that al­lows such an op­er­a­tion and then re­turn­ing to the city to con­sume the prod­uct.

Ward 5 Coun. An­drew Marks did point out, how­ever, that com­mu­ni­ties with pop­u­la­tions un­der 50,000 are cur­rently not even on the list of pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions for re­tail cannabis out­lets.

“This might buy us fur­ther time, but I fully sup­port us be­ing in front of this and hav­ing a pol­icy frame­work where we can agree to some of those easy, ba­sic wins of not lo­cat­ing a re­tail store near an LCBO, cur­tail­ing the hours as out­lined in the re­port,” he said.

“I would ask the coun­cil­lors who are sit­ting on the Por­cu­pine Health Unit board, in your up­com­ing meet­ings with bud­get, please dis­cuss, as we dis­cuss our tobacco pol­icy po­ten­tially re­lat­ing to the changes they want to make, the Por­cu­pine Health Unit is the en­force­ment guide of this arm in Tim­mins. What en­hanced fund­ing or sup­port will they be pro­vid­ing?”

Ward 5 Coun. Michelle Boileau feels es­tab­lish­ment of a re­tail cannabis out­let in Tim­mins could have pos­i­tive im­pacts on the city.

“This could sup­port eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and lo­cal en­trepreneur­ship should li­cences even­tu­ally be granted in com­mu­ni­ties with pop­u­la­tions un­der 50,000,” she said.

“It could po­ten­tially fill va­cant re­tail spa­ces that many peo­ple con­tinue to bring to our at­ten­tion. It would also min­i­mize the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of cannabis sales on­line. Stud­ies have shown on­line shop­ping is ac­tu­ally detri­men­tal to our en­vi­ron­ment. It in­creases our car­bon foot­print.

“Most im­por­tantly, it would keep con­sumers of cannabis prod­ucts from hav­ing to turn to drug deal­ers and or­ga­nized crime.

“Cannabis is go­ing to be com­ing into our city, so I don’t think there is any ben­e­fit to opt­ing out.”

Ward 3 Coun. Joe Camp­bell does, how­ever, have a few con­cerns about the sale of cannabis in the com­mu­nity.

“If you look at the his­tory of states that have ap­proved this, their traf­fic ac­ci­dent rates in­creased and en­force­ment is­sues cost a lot more money,” he said.

Tim­mins Po­lice Ser­cice Chief John Gau­thier ad­dressed the coun­cil­lor’s con­cerns.

“We are do­ing the best we can,” he said.

“I think Dave put a re­ally good spin on it. The Tim­mins Po­lice Ser­vice en­force­ment side of this is go­ing to be as­sist­ing the AGCO. If the AGCO re­ceives a com­plaint about non- com­pli­ance or they want to go and do an in­spec­tion, mem­bers of our drug unit will at­tend and do the en­force­ment.

“The other side of it, and you see it in your re­port, while the health unit is go­ing to have a lot of work, per­haps, en­forc­ing the Smoke Free On­tario Act, we have stan­dard field so­bri­ety of­fi­cers al­ready des­ig­nated and trained, in­clud­ing one who is a drug recog­ni­tion ex­pert.

“We are pre­pared. Will there be a rise in im­paired driv­ing cases? That’s a good ques­tion. I hope I will be here next year to tell you, ‘ No, there hasn’t been.’ We are as pre­pared as we pos­si­bly can be at this point.”

Coun. Camp­bell brought up an­other point of con­cern.

“We have to be cog­nisant of the fact cannabis has most of the same car­cino­gen­ics that are in tobacco smoke,” he said.

“So, the num­ber of places we can keep peo­ple from smok­ing up cannabis would be to the ad­van­tage of pub­lic health.

“The last Tim­mins Rock game, out­side the arena, there were two gen­tle­men smok­ing up and I would hate to reach the point where be­tween pe­ri­ods we have a whole bunch of peo­ple in front of the arena smok­ing cannabis.

“So, the more we can get on top of this in terms of where you can and can’t do it, the bet­ter.

“I think treat­ing it like al­co­hol in­stead of smok­ing is the di­rec­tion I would like to see us look at as a fi­nal pro­posal of where we are go­ing with this thing.”

Coun. Marks noted the Por­cu­pine Health Unit is al­ready hav­ing dif­fi­culty en­forc­ing no ( tobacco) smok­ing reg­u­la­tions out­side city are­nas.

“That is why I would re­ally like to re­view what out tobacco by­law states with re­gard to dis­tances,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be ham­string­ing them when they can’t cur­rently en­force what the tobacco rules are, but I agree with your premise. We don’t want tobacco smok­ing, we don’t want cannabis smok­ing any­where near our recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties, our parks, our beaches, our trails, but there is a re­al­ity. If we cre­ate a by­law, we have to be able to en­force it.”

Coun. Camp­bell noted there is a slight dif­fer­ence be­tween tobacco and cannabis.

“When you smoke cig­a­rettes, it doesn’t im­pair your abil­ity,” he said.

“When you are smok­ing cannabis at a hockey game, are you go­ing home im­paired at that point.

“I don’t think we should be back­ing away from a res­o­lu­tion be­cause it is not en­force­able.”

Ward 5 Coun. Noella Ri­naldo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Down­town Tim­mins, of­fered a sim­i­lar ex­am­ple.

“I got my first call to­day ( Tues­day) of peo­ple com­plain­ing of some­body smok­ing cannabis on the street, legally,” she said.

“As you know, in the past we had ap­proached coun­cil about al­ter­ing our by­law to in­crease the space from the front of a busi­ness where peo­ple could legally smoke.

“Un­for­tu­nately, six inches means the dif­fer­ence be­tween the side­walk or no side­walk and the abil­ity to smoke mar­i­juana.

“We are go­ing to have a lot of chal­lenges ahead of us, but opt­ing in or opt­ing out, it’s here. It’s the chal­lenges that will come with the ac­tual prod­uct it­self.”

Mayor Ge­orge Pirie broke the is­sue down to three key el­e­ments.

“The first is opt in or opt out and we are in un­less we opt out and I am not see­ing any ap­petite around the ta­ble to opt out,” he said.

“It is here and we have got to deal with it. Sec­ond is the abil­ity to af­fect zon­ing by­laws, mak­ing them more re­stric­tive, to the ex­tent we can.

“In what I have read through the On­tario Cham­ber of Com­merce, the grant­ing of re­tail li­cences is go­ing to be done strictly through the prov­ince and it seems things are well in hand in re­la­tion to schools other ar­eas, but if we truly have the abil­ity to make them more re­stric­tive, then I ap­plaud our abil­ity to do that.

“I would like to see a sum­mary and a bit of a re­port on how we can do that and a pol­icy state­ment de­vel­oped so we can talk about this in­tel­li­gently.

“The third thing and maybe I am wrong on this, but I sat in on the Por­cu­pine Health Unit’s pro­posal, I thought we had the abil­ity, through by­law, to merge the smok­ing by­law, if you will, with the al­co­hol reg­u­la­tions, which would re­ally fit ev­ery­thing we have been talk­ing about.

“You wouldn’t be stand­ing out on a street cor­ner tak­ing a sip from a mickey, so to speak, or drink­ing a bot­tle of beer or any­thing else.

“It would keep it where I think it needs to be kept and that is in the in­di­vid­ual res­i­dences of those who want to use it.

“I am con­cerned, as I think every­body around this ta­ble is, with the safety of the cit­i­zens in re­la­tion to driv­ing.”

There was some dis­cus­sion on whether a for­mal vote was nec­es­sary to as­sure lo­cal tax­pay­ers that coun­cil was unan­i­mous in its po­si­tion not to opt out, but it was de­cided that would not be nec­es­sary.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/ Nathan Denette

Can­nTrust em­ploy­ees are seen here work­ing with cannabis prod­ucts at their pack­ag­ing and ex­trac­tion fa­cil­ity in Vaughan, Ont., on Wed­nes­day, Dec. 19, 2018.

Joe Camp­bell

An­drew Marks

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