Huntsville Council has voted in favour of allowing private recreational cannabis dispensaries to set up shop in the community.
Municipalities were asked by the Province to simply opt-in or opt-out of the program by January 22, 2019.
According to a report provided to council at its December 12 meeting by Economic Development Coordinator Scott Ovell, municipalities that opt-in could be financial beneficiaries of the sale of cannabis.
“If Ontario’s portion of the federal excise duty on recreational cannabis over the first two years of legalization exceeds $100 million, the Province will provide 50 per cent of the surplus to municipalities that have opted-in only as of January 22, 2019,” wrote Ovell.
He also stated that an Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund (OCLIF) has been created and Huntsville is expected to receive an initial installment of about $13,606. Funds under the OCLIF can only be used for costs associated with the legalization of recreational cannabis, such as: increased enforcement, public inquiries related to the legalization, increased paramedic and fire services, and policy development.
Ovell’s report also states that since the newly elected provincial government took office, the regulatory regime for the sale of cannabis has changed. At first, it was proposed that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario would be overseeing the sale of recreational cannabis. Now it seems they will only be an online distributor while private retail stores will be allowed to begin selling marijuana as of April 1, 2019, if municipalities endorse its sale within their boundaries.
The licensing and regulation of such stores is expected to fall under the purview of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Applications are expected to be posted on the AGCO website and signs posted on storefronts for which an application has been made, not unlike liquor licence applications. Municipalities would then have 15 days to comment on the proposed location.
Council was asked to give staff the ability to formulate a commenting plan in collaboration with District municipal staff and other Muskoka municipalities that choose to opt-in, particularly since the 15 day commenting period may not fall within a timeframe when council meets.
“The regulation identifies locational requirements to protect youth, through a requirement of a 150-metre buffer area to separate cannabis stores from schools. No buffers for any other use is specified in the regulations. Further, the regulation contains a licensing regime for private retail sales. Put simply, unless a retail store has a provincial licence, the Province will not permit the store to operate. As a result, a municipality cannot regulate the location of retail cannabis outlets through zoning, nor can it license such uses through its business licensing by-law,” added Ovell in his report.
Councillor Nancy Alcock questioned whether the legislation put a cap on the number of licences that can be issued within a municipality; Ovell said he would find out.
Council seemed to unanimously agree to opt-in and allow the installation of licenced private cannabis retail stores in the municipality.
“We’re in the dope business,” commented Councillor Brian Thompson after the vote.
You can find Ovell’s full report at this link.
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