Re­tail urged for pot

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC

Brockville coun­cil should al­low the sale of recre­ational cannabis in the city, but seek in­put from the pub­lic about the idea be­fore mak­ing that fi­nal, the plan­ning com­mit­tee rec­om­mends.

At its first meet­ing since the new city coun­cil was in­au­gu­rated Mon­day, coun­cil’s new plan­ning and op­er­a­tions com­mit­tee backed a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions ahead of the Jan­uary dead­line for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to opt out of pri­vate pot sales.

They in­clude a rec­om­men­da­tion that the city per­mit pri­vate cannabis re­tail stores, but also that coun­cil di­rect staff “re­spect­ing so­lic­i­ta­tion for pub­lic com­ment on the mat­ter of whether the City of Brockville should ‘Opt- Out.’”

An­other rec­om­men­da­tion calls for a “mu­nic­i­pal cannabis pol­icy state­ment” that would in­clude guid­ance on where pot stores could be lo­cated and what ar­eas might be con­sid­ered sen­si­tive.

The Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario (AGCO) cur­rently only pro­vides for a 150me­tre buf­fer be­tween cannabis stores and schools, plan­ner An­drew McGin­nis told the plan­ning com­mit­tee Tues­day. A mu­nic­i­pal pol­icy state­ment would al­low Brockville to add other sen­si­tive ar­eas, such as shel­ters, day­care sites or other types of fa­cil­ity.

How­ever, he noted, the AGCO is the fi­nal de­ci­sion-maker on re­tail cannabis.

While cannabis has been le­gal since Oc­to­ber 17, it is cur­rently only avail­able on­line from a gov­ern­ment site. Pri­vate re­tail cannabis sales are ex­pected to be­gin next April.

In On­tario, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have un­til Jan. 22 to de­cide to opt out of lo­cal pri­vate pot sales. Un­less a mu­nic­i­pal­ity opts out ex­plic­itly, it is con­sid­ered to have opted in by de­fault.

If the city does opt out, it can opt in at a fu­ture date, but once it opts in, there is no re­vers­ing that de­ci­sion.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that opt in stand to get more money from the prov­ince in or­der to deal with the con­se­quences of le­gal cannabis.

Last month, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment laid out the On­tario Cannabis Le­gal­iza­tion Im­ple­men­ta­tion Fund, with a first pay­ment of $15 mil­lion spread out among the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in early Jan­uary. For Brockville, the amount is $27,591.

Af­ter the opt-out dead­line, the prov­ince plans to al­lo­cate an­other $15 mil­lion, this time giv­ing a greater share to the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that opt in. If the city opts in, it will get an­other $27,600.

The money can be spent on such things as in­creased po­lice, pub­lic health and by­law en­force­ment, in­creased para­medic and fire ser­vices and an in­creased vol­ume of in­quiries.

Coun. Larry Journal told the plan­ning com­mit­tee he is not com­fort­able with the cur­rent sys­tem al­low­ing the smok­ing of cannabis wherever to­bacco smok­ing is al­lowed.

Journal is wor­ried about sec­ond-hand cannabis smoke.

“Can we strengthen this cannabis pol­icy to in­clude the pro­hibit­ing of cannabis in pub­lic places?” Journal asked.

City clerk San­dra MacDonald said the smok­ing by­law is gov­erned by the re­gional health unit.

“We are work­ing with the health unit to make it as re­stric­tive as we can,” she said.

There might be a way to de­sign by­laws that dif­fer­en­ti­ate cannabis from to­bacco smok­ing, but de­tails re­main un­cer­tain, city of­fi­cials said.

The health unit cur­rently has only one staff per­son to en­force smok­ing by­laws, said MacDonald.

Coun. Leigh Bursey ar­gued against reg­u­lat­ing pot smok­ing more strictly than to­bacco, adding the more re­stric­tive it gets, the costlier it gets to en­force.

“I don’t know why we’d want to rein­vent the wheel here,” said Bursey.

On the mat­ter of con­sul­ta­tion, city res­i­dents would be able to sub­mit opin­ions in writ­ing on the mat­ter of re­tail cannabis by Jan. 7, ahead of the opt-out dead­line.

The full city coun­cil is ex­pected to put the mat­ter to a fi­nal vote next Tues­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.