St. Clair Township says no to retail pot shops
St. Clair Township will not allow retail cannabis stores to set up shop, at least for now.
Township council this week voted against allowing retail pot stores in the municipality, a decision it needed to make prior to Jan. 22.
The Ontario government will be holding a lottery later this month to issue licences to 25 private retail marijuana outlets. These outlets will be able to legally sell marijuana beginning April 1.
Mayor Steve Arnold said council had several concerns, including policing and worries about government regulations surrounding the sale of marijuana. Arnold also said St. Clair doesn’t have enough population to qualify for the initial lottery.
“You need to have over 50,000 population to even be in the running for one, so it seemed like a moot point for us,” he said, “but we needed to make that declaration moving forward.”
The township has more than 14,000 residents.
“The other piece was that we feel there is going to be a bunch of legislation enacted with regards to regulating facilities, and we want to see what that looks like going forward,” he added. “We’re disappointed in the current government’s stance to drop the requirement, for instance, (for retail marijuana shops to be) 450 metres from schools to 150 metres from schools. We thought that was odd. We also don’t know how the policing is going to work, our OPP policing and whether (the opening of retail marijuana shops) would be a new burden on them.”
While municipalities such as Sarnia, Strathroy-Caradoc and Dawn-Euphemia have voted to opt in, St. Clair joins PlymptonWyoming as local municipalities that will opt out.
Council’s Jan. 7 vote, however, doesn’t mean there won’t be retail marijuana stores popping up in St. Clair in the future, Arnold said.
Once the province introduces more retail licences and allows municipalities smaller than 50,000 to open stores, council will revisit the issue, he said.
“I’ve already had inquiries from a few folks who are interested in starting up shops, but right off the bat we don’t qualify because of our population base,” Arnold said. “So when it becomes more available, we’ll likely have a public meeting and find out what the general consensus is out in the community.
“But until that population number changes, it’s not in the best interest of our community just to blindly jump in to something like this.”