St. Clair Town­ship says no to re­tail pot shops

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - CARL HNATSHYN

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.”

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