Sur­vey shows most in city sup­port re­tail pot shops

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - DOUG SCH­MIDT [email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/schmidtc­ity

More than four in five lo­cal res­i­dents want brick-and-mor­tar pot shops in Wind­sor, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of an on­line sur­vey con­ducted by the city.

Of nearly 8,000 re­sponses over a nearly two-month sur­vey pe­riod, 81 per cent of the 5,411 re­spon­dents iden­ti­fied as be­ing from Wind­sor and Es­sex County favour the city opt­ing in to re­tail sales of cannabis. Mayor Drew Dilkens said the sur­vey re­sults are not enough for him to change his op­po­si­tion to Wind­sor opt­ing in. But the new num­bers made pub­lic Fri­day af­ter­noon are likely to pro­vide more am­mu­ni­tion to the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors the Star iden­ti­fied this week as be­ing ei­ther sup­port­ive, or lean­ing in favour, of opt­ing in.

In an in­ter­view Fri­day, Dilkens ac­knowl­edged he’ll likely be on the los­ing side of a Jan. 21 city coun­cil vote. “I’m go­ing to vote to opt out — I imag­ine most of coun­cil will vote to opt in,” the mayor said. The province has given On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties un­til Jan. 22 to opt out of re­tail sales. Those which don’t re­spond by the dead­line are au­to­mat­i­cally con­sid­ered in favour of al­low­ing pri­vately op­er­ated pot shops in their re­tail zones.

In a 19-page re­port go­ing to coun­cil, city so­lic­i­tor Shelby Askin Hager said the sur­vey’s 850 opt-in pro­po­nents who pro­vided ad­di­tional com­ments ex­pressed con­cerns about “pro­mot­ing il­licit sales if no phys­i­cal le­gal op­tion is avail­able” among rea­sons to vote in favour. Eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and added con­ve­nience to ac­cess a prod­uct that was made le­gal in Canada in Oc­to­ber were also cited. Among the 129 com­ments from the other side in­cluded those still op­posed to the le­gal­iza­tion of pot, while oth­ers ad­vo­cated a “wai­t­and-see” ap­proach to On­tario’s launch­ing in April of re­tail sales. Cur­rently, the only le­gal sup­ply of recre­ational pot for adults is through the on­line On­tario Cannabis Store.

Dilkens, who de­scribed the sur­vey as “just one indi­ca­tor” in the de­bate, is also in the wait-and­see camp. While “fun­da­men­tally not op­posed” to re­tail sales, he said his big­gest worry with what’s pro­posed is the lack of con­trol for mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in where such re­tail shops can set up. The only re­stric­tion the province has placed on lo­ca­tions is that they can­not op­er­ate within 150 me­tres of any school. “At the heart of it, that’s my con­cern,” he said.

Hager’s re­port notes the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion of On­tario will “con­sider” lo­cal in­put on lo­ca­tions but that there is no obli­ga­tion to do so and “the risk ex­ists that the AGCO could ap­prove store lo­ca­tions that are within close prox­im­ity to com­mu­nity cen­tres, parks, hos­pi­tals, long-term care homes, ad­dic­tion treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties or other lo­cally sen­si­tive uses.” Given the “great num­ber of un­knowns,” city ad­min­is­tra­tion is ad­vis­ing that “the more cau­tious ap­proach is to opt out now with the pos­si­bil­ity of opt­ing in later.” The big­gest risks to opt­ing out, ac­cord­ing to Hager’s re­port, is “the lost op­por­tu­nity for new busi­ness ven­tures” and city jobs, as well as the po­ten­tial for “dra­mat­i­cally re­duced” pay­ments from the province to those mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that opt out, even to those that later de­cide to opt in. Not al­low­ing lo­cal re­tail sales could also mean con­tin­u­ing “to al­low il­le­gal sup­pli­ers a ready mar­ket,” the re­port added. Ac­cord­ing to the staff re­port, the Wind­sor-Es­sex County Health Unit has en­dorsed the opt-out ap­proach, and the Wind­sor Po­lice Ser­vice has warned that open­ing cannabis stores in the down­town “could neg­a­tively af­fect” re­cent crime-fight­ing ef­forts.”

Drew Dilkens

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