Coun­cil ex­pected to opt in

On­line pot sur­vey shows ma­jor­ity sup­ports cannabis stores in Belleville

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - FRONT PAGE - TIM MEEKS

Nearly 80 per cent of re­spon­dents to an on­line sur­vey re­gard­ing es­tab­lish­ing cannabis re­tail out­lets in The Friendly City are open to the idea.

Be­cause of that City of Belleville staff has rec­om­mended coun­cil opt in to the provin­cial pro­gram when it meets Mon­day.

A staff re­port in the coun­cil agenda stated the com­mu­nity sur­vey, posted to the mu­nic­i­pal web­site, re­ceived 2,263 re­sponses by the Jan. 4 dead­line, rep­re­sent­ing ap­prox­i­mately 4.5 per cent of the city’s pop­u­la­tion, and 78.4 per cent of them are open to the idea of hav­ing stores in the com­mu­nity, while 74.7 per cent stated they had no con­cerns about pot shops. Based on the sur­vey re­sponses, sup­port for cannabis re­tail stores ap­pear to be driven by eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity in the com­mu­nity rather than per­sonal use. While over­all sup­port was high, only 58.9 per cent of re­spon­dents in­di­cated they would shop at a re­tail store and 40.3 per cent said they would not. More­over, only 10.4 per cent said they have made on­line pur­chases while 38.7 per cent said they have viewed the prov­ince’s on­line web­site but have not made any pur­chases.

The sur­vey con­tained 15 ques­tions and was posted to the city’s web­site Dec. 12.

The age group 25- 34, which makes up ap­prox­i­mately 11.8 per cent of Belleville’s pop­u­la­tion, pro­vided 23.5 per cent of the re­sponses ( the most of any age group), rep­re­sent­ing 8.9 per cent of that age group’s pop­u­la­tion. Se­niors, aged 65+ ( Belleville’s largest age group), who rep­re­sent ap­prox­i­mately 21.2 per cent of the city, pro­vided only 10.8 per cent of the re­sponses to the sur­vey which is 2.3 per cent of the age group. How­ever, the re­sults are lim­ited, as the sur­vey re­sults do not in­di­cate if re­spon­dents are ac­tu­ally city res­i­dents.

Mayor Mitch Pan­ciuk feels coun­cil’s de­ci­sion Mon­day will be very clear.

“The staff re­port was very well writ­ten, and I know we have been very busy lis­ten­ing to peo­ple since our Dec. 10 meet­ing and we’ve had lots of pub­lic feed­back. I don’t re­mem­ber an on­line sur­vey that has re­ceived as much pub­lic re­sponse. I know how I’m go­ing to vote and I’m sure a very clear de­ci­sion will be made Mon­day,” Pan­ciuk said.

Coun. Chris Malette, who ini­tially pro­posed the on­line sur­vey, said it wasn’t in­tended to be a ref­er­en­dum on the is­sue, just a mea­sur­ing stick to gauge pub­lic opin­ion.

“The sur­vey was just to give the tax­pay­ers an op­por­tu­nity to ex­press their opin­ion be­cause we’re elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple and we wanted to hear what they had to say, good, bad or ill. We wanted to gauge re­ac­tion. We’re not naive, we know the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple prob­a­bly do sup­port it, but we’re a democ­racy and we had to give peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond, and the re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing, and I don’t think it’s a se­cret that, come Mon­day, a lot of us are go­ing to lean to­ward opt­ing in.

“Tyen­d­i­naga de­cided not to opt in, but Tyen­d­i­naga Town­ship... se­ri­ously, there isn’t a store front in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. We’re an ur­ban mu­nic­i­pal­ity and we’ve had ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est from en­trepreneurs or re­tail­ers who are in­ter­ested in set­ting up shop here. We have to give them the op­por­tu­nity to do that and this is the way to go,” Malette said.

The city must in­form the Al­co­hol andGam­ingCom­mis­sionofOn­tario within three days of its de­ci­sion. Only five of the 25 re­tail stores be­ing ini­tially es­tab­lished in the prov­ince in a lot­tery that closed to ap­pli­cants on Wed­nes­day will be lo­cated within “East Re­gion” and they must be in cities with pop­u­la­tions, like Belleville, of at least 50,000 peo­ple. The win­ning ap­pli­cants drawn ran­domly Fri­day were to be an­nounced within 24 hours.

Those se­lected through the lot­tery will have five busi­ness days to turn in their ap­pli­ca­tion along with a $ 6,000 non- re­fund­able fee and a $ 50,000 let­ter of credit.

Recre­ational cannabis can cur­rently only be pur­chased legally in On­tario through a gov­ern­ment- run web­site, with the first pri­vate stores set to open April 1. Mon­day’s Belleville coun­cil meet­ing will be­gin at city hall at 4 p. m.

Mean­while, Prince Ed­ward County’s com­mit­tee of the whole has put its full sup­port be­hind opt­ing in fol­low­ing a spe­cial com­mit­tee meet­ing Wed­nes­day night at the Prince Ed­ward Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Pic­ton.

A staff re­port from di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment Neil Car­bone out­lin­ing the re­sults of mul­ti­ple pub­lic consultation sur­veys that were com­pleted fol­low­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis in Oc­to­ber was pre­sented to coun­cil and the pub­lic.

Ap­prox­i­mately two- thirds ( 63 per cent) of the County pop­u­la­tion aged 18 and over sup­port cannabis re­tail out­lets, while more than 54 per cent of peo­ple over 18 say they agree there will be eco­nomic ben­e­fits from hav­ing cannabis re­tail stores in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Also, 70 per cent of re­spon­dents over 18 who in­tend to pur­chase cannabis ex­pect to pur­chase from stores in the County if they are ap­proved.

A spe­cial meet­ing of coun­cil is set for Tues­day, where the de­ci­sion will ei­ther be rat­i­fied or pulled for fur­ther dis­cus­sion. The dead­line for all provin­cial mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to opt out is set for Jan. 22.

Prince Ed­ward County is the first of the Quinte re­gion’s three largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to dis­cuss the is­sue in pub­lic, with Belleville and Quinte West ex­pected to make de­ci­sions in the com­ing days.

Stir­ling has cho­sen to opt in, while Tyen­d­i­naga Town­ship is elect­ing to opt out.

TIM MEEKS/ THE INTELLIGENCER

Belleville city coun­cil will de­cide at Mon­day's meet­ing whether the city will opt in or opt out of es­tab­lish­ing re­tail cannabis stores.

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