Prescott opts in for pot

Coun­cil­lors have no il­lu­sions about their chances in cannabis lot­tery

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NEWS - WAYNE LOWRIE [email protected]­media.com

PRESCOTT – The town has voted to join the grow­ing list of Leeds and Grenville mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties per­mit­ting re­tail cannabis stores in their com­mu­nity.

But the on­tario gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion ini­tially to limit the num­ber of pot shops to only five in all of east­ern on­tario means that Prescott, or in­deed any mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the coun­ties, is un­likely to see a store any­time soon.

Cit­ing shortages of cannabis that it blames on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has de­cided to al­low only 25 re­tail pot stores to open on April 1, in­stead of the free-mar­ket sys­tem it ad­vo­cated dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign. east­ern on­tario will get five of those stores to serve an area stretch­ing from the Que­bec bor­der to the Muskokas, in­clud­ing the cities of ot­tawa, kingston, Brockville, Corn­wall, Peter­bor­ough and Belleville.

Whether or not Leeds and Grenville com­mu­ni­ties will get any of those re­tail stores is lit­er­ally the luck of the draw. The Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of on­tario be­gan col­lect­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for re­tail cannabis li­cences on Mon­day and the process was to close at noon on Wednes­day, al­thought that dead­line was ex­tended to later in the day.

The com­mis­sion will choose the lucky 25 re­tail­ers by lot­tery on Fri­day and post the re­sults this week­end.

un­der the gov­ern­ment’s rules, a mu­nic­i­pal­ity must have a pop­u­la­tion of at least 50,000 be­fore it can qual­ify for a pot shop, mean­ing that lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would have to qual­ify un­der the um­brella of the united Coun­ties of Leeds and Grenville, which has a pop­u­la­tion of a lit­tle over 100,000.

De­spite an­nounc­ing Fri­day ’s lot­tery to de­ter­mine which re­tail­ers will get the first 25 li­cences, the on­tario gov­ern­ment has given mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­til Jan. 22 to ban re­tail pot.

on Mon­day, Prescott coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to per­mit re­tail cannabis with sev­eral coun­cil­lors ac­knowl­edg­ing that the 4,500-pop­u­la­tion town is un­likely to be among the five east­ern on­tario com­mu­ni­ties to get a re­tail store in the ini­tial lot­tery round.

Coun. Lee McCon­nell noted that cannabis sales, like al­co­hol, are now le­gal in Canada and there is lit­tle sense in Prescott declar­ing it­self “dry or smoke-free.”

Mayor Brett Todd noted that on­line sales are le­gal, re­gard­less of what the town does with re­tail stores. So Prescott res­i­dents could pick up their pot at the post of­fice in the cen­tre of town even if there were no re­tail stores, he said.

Todd said the coun­try once viewed the im­pend­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis with a sense of panic, but the sky hasn’t fallen since late oc­to­ber when it be­came le­gal.

“We can’t stick our heads in the sand on this,” said Todd, echo­ing the words of Coun. Teresa Jans­man. Todd added that he hadn’t heard of any lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties de­cid­ing to opt out.

In an­nounc­ing the 25-store cap and the lot­tery, At­tor­ney- Gen­eral Caro­line Mul­roney and Fi­nance Min­is­ter vic Fedeli last month blamed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“It is the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to over­see cannabis pro­duc­tion and to pro­vide a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the il­le­gal mar­ket by en­sur­ing there is suf­fi­cient sup­ply to meet con­sumer de­mand,” the min­is­ters said. “Yet, we con­tinue to see se­vere sup­ply shortages across the coun­try in le­gal, li­censed recre­ational cannabis stores.”

The min­is­ters said the pot short­age is not lim­ited to on­tario. Al­berta stopped is­su­ing new cannabis li­cences af­ter only re­ceiv­ing 20 per cent of the stock it or­dered from li­censed pro­duc­ers, and re­tail op­er­at­ing hours in Que­bec have been re­duced to four days a week.

“This is a na­tional is­sue that de­mands an im­me­di­ate re­sponse from Justin Trudeau and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” they said.

The li­cence lot­tery is only tem­po­rary un­til the fed­eral gov­ern­ment en­sures a re­li­able sup­ply of pot, the min­is­ters said.

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