Rich­mond Hill to just say no to pot

The province will pro­vide $40 mil­lion to cities for le­gal­iza­tion

Thornhill Post - - News - –– Kevin Scott

As On­tario pre­pares for the le­gal­iza­tion of the recre­ational sale of mar­i­juana on Oct. 17, it may be quite a while be­fore res­i­dents of Rich­mond Hill are able to pur­chase cannabis prod­ucts from re­tail stores mu­nic­i­pally –– that is, if it is al­lowed at all.

In Au­gust, the Province of On­tario an­nounced that cannabis le­gal­iza­tion will be in­tro­duced through a “pri­vate re­tail” model, which will be set to launch by April 2019.

Be­fore that hap­pens, the gov­ern­ment has also said that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will have a one-time win­dow dur­ing which they can choose to opt out of per­mit­ting phys­i­cal cannabis re­tail stores within their bound­aries.

Rich­mond Hill mayor Dave Bar­row says that no de­ci­sion has been made on the mat­ter but in­sists the ma­jor­ity of Rich­mond Hill res­i­dents sim­ply aren’t in­ter­ested.

“I have had a few com­ments from those want­ing an out­let ask­ing why I am against it, and I re­ply that I am rep­re­sent­ing the ‘no’ com­mu­nity that has far ex­ceeded the ‘yes’ com­mu­nity. I rep­re­sent the peo­ple,” Bar­row said.

In De­cem­ber 2017, Rich­mond Hill Town Coun­cil said that they would not be a will­ing host for a recre­ational re­tail store af­ter hear­ing from roughly 1,000 res­i­dents.

“We will once again get coun­cil’s de­ci­sion when we have all the de­tails on the leg­is­la­tion,” Bar­row said.

When asked about whether he was con­cerned about eco­nomic losses that could be in­curred by de­cid­ing not to par­tic­i­pate, Bar­row said it was sim­ply too early to tell.

“The rev­enue for­mula has just been out­lined, but it is not very clear whether the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­ceives the money to cover all the ex­tra costs from by­law peo­ple and po­lice that will oc­cur,” said Bar­row.

In De­cem­ber, the pro­jec­tions for how much le­gal mar­i­juana en­force­ment would cost tax­pay­ers in York Re­gion came to about $6 mil­lion per year.

Jodie Emery is an ad­vo­cate for le­gal mar­i­juana and a busi­ness owner whose Cannabis Cul­ture dis­pen­saries in Toronto were shut down by po­lice last year. Ac­cord­ing to Emery, ar­eas like Rich­mond Hill de­cid­ing to opt out will only re­sult in them miss­ing out on po­ten­tial tax rev­enue, job cre­ation and tourism as well as con­tin­u­ing to stig­ma­tize cannabis and those who use it.

“Peo­ple feel like it will bring crime or un­savoury types,” Emery said, “but in fact, where cannabis dis­pen­saries open, crimes like theft and rob­bery go down. Where cannabis dis­pen­saries open, prop­erty val­ues go up.”

Rich­mond Hill res­i­dents will still be able to pur­chase mar­i­juana through a gov­ern­ment web­site, but Emery feels this model isn’t suf­fi­cient.

“The mail or­der only is not ac­cept­able. Peo­ple need ac­cess close to home and easy to get. It should be no dif­fer­ent than cof­fee shops,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Scott Blod­gett, spokesper­son for the min­is­ter of fi­nance, the province will be pro­vid­ing $40 mil­lion over two years to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across On­tario to help with the costs as­so­ci­ated with the le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis.

“The pri­vate re­tail store model will be de­vel­oped in con­sul­ta­tion with the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of On­tario (AMO), the City of Toronto and other key stake­hold­ers,” he said.

Penal­ties for those who sell or al­low their prop­erty to be used to sell il­le­gal cannabis will be steep, with a max­i­mum fine of $250,000 and/or up to two years in prison for in­di­vid­u­als’ first con­vic­tions and a max­i­mum fine of $1,000,000 for cor­po­ra­tions caught com­mit­ting the same vi­o­la­tions.

“All dis­pen­saries presently op­er­at­ing in On­tario are do­ing so il­le­gally, and they should demon­strate a will­ing­ness to com­ply with the law and shut down now. Our up­com­ing con­sul­ta­tions will help us de­ter­mine what busi­nesses will be per­mit­ted to op­er­ate in the le­gal re­tail mar­ket,” said Jes­sica Trepanier, press sec­re­tary for the Min­istry of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

“Where cannabis dis­pen­saries open, crimes like theft and rob­bery go down. Prop­erty val­ues go up.”

The now-shut­tered Can­ab­liss dis­pen­sary in Rich­mond Hill

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