Just 10 days left to decide on pot sales
It’s a decision D-Day for hundreds of Ontario municipalities, the first big question many of their new councils elected last fall will face this year.
Within 10 days, every place in the province with its own government must decide whether or not it will allow legal pot stores within its boundaries.
In some ways, it’s not yet a huge deal. After all, Ontario is allowing only 25 marijuana stores for the entire province — that’s 444 municipalities — in the first rollout of legal pot shops this spring.
But with recreational and medicinal marijuana use in Canada here to stay, and a huge industry taking shape to cater to it, sitting out what’s expected to become a much larger market — likely extending to pot-infused food and drink and myriad lifestyle options — brings its own risks.
Turn your nose up at pot, and someone else — down the road, or across the province — will lap up the spoils.
More than two dozen cities and towns already have opted out.
That’s a particular concern in Southwestern Ontario, which is emerging as a major pot-growing belt.
With just 10 days to go until the Jan. 22 deadline, more than two dozen cities and towns, including at least 10 in Southwestern Ontario, already have opted out, citing concerns about drug abuse, crime and their inability to control store locations — the province sets the rules — through zoning.
Many other places are playing the 11th-hour waiting game, watching what neighbours are doing, trying to get their hands on more information and putting off deciding until next week before the deadline or right up to it.
They might be forgiven for holding out.
After all, Ontarians have seen the landscape for the sale of legal weed change dramatically between two provincial governments in only seven months, from the monopoly approach of the former Liberal government that wanted to sell pot at a specific number of stores linked to the LCBO, to Doug Ford’s 360 on the file.
His Progressive Conservatives first decided to let the private sector sell cannabis with no limits on store numbers, but now are restricting tightly the number of stores because of a shortage of product they blame on the federal government, which licenses legal pot producers.
Opting out — communities that say no can change their minds later, but not the reverse — and banning legal pot shops is a short-sighted move that only will fuel demand for black market marijuana and cost places that say no lost provincial funding , some critics warn.
But even as Ontario finally reveals which would-be sellers will get the first 25 locations in the province, under a lottery draw whose results were expected by today, some civic politicians remain skeptical of openly allowing sale of drug that was banned for 95 years in Canada until the federal Liberals legalized its recreational use last fall.