Council to discuss recreational cannabis retailers at next week’s meeting

Local politicians will likely decide next week whether recreational cannabis retailers will be allowed to set up shop in the township.

The Province has given municipalities until Jan. 22 to make a decision and the matter will be on the agenda for Monday’s (Jan. 7) council meeting.

A municipal survey on the issue launched by the Township last month drew more than 760 responses.

“Recreational cannabis was legalized on Oct. 17, 2018 by the federal government and it is now legal to purchase and use cannabis for recreational purposes across Canada.  In Ontario, currently the only way to legally purchase recreational cannabis is online through the Ontario Cannabis Store, but beginning in April 2019 it will be available for purchase through private recreational cannabis retail stores,” a background note on the survey reads.

“The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will be the provincial regulator authorized to licence private recreational cannabis retail stores. The Ontario Cannabis Store will be exclusive wholesaler to these retailers. The province is providing municipalities a one-time opportunity to opt-out of having private recreational cannabis retail stores within their municipal boundaries by Jan. 22, 2019. A decision to opt-in cannot be reversed while a decision to opt-out may be reversed in the future.”

Retail operations will be licensed and regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

Last month, the provincial government cited a national cannabis shortage in announcing that only 25 licenses would be issued in April.

Only those aged 19 and older will be able to enter the stores, which will have operating hours between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day. They must be at least 150 metres away from schools.

The Township is set to receive a small share of provincial funding – at least $40 million over the next two years – to assist with the implementation costs of cannabis legalization.

“In early January, the first payment of $15 million will be made to all municipalities on a per household basis, adjusted so that at least $5,000 is provided to each municipality. This will enable all municipalities to proceed with their planned legalization activities,” reads a letter from the Province.

“A second payment of $15 million will then be distributed following the deadline for municipalities to opt-out under the Cannabis Licence Act, which is Jan. 22, 2019. Municipalities that have not opted-out as of January 22, 2019 will receive funding on a per household basis, adjusted so that at least $5,000 is provided to each municipality. This funding will support initial costs related to hosting retail storefronts.”

CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby noted that the Township will receive roughly $6,600 for the first payment though that total will be split evenly with Durham Region.

Municipalities that opt out of allowing retail operations will only receive $5,000 during the second round of payments.

“The Province is setting aside $10 million of the municipal funding to address costs from unforeseen circumstances related to the legalization of recreational cannabis, and priority will be given to municipalities that have not opted-out,” the letter from the Province reads.

“Further details will be provided at a later date.”

The letter continues by noting that municipalities that allow the retail operations will also be eligible for additional funding.

“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 only to municipalities that have not opted-out as of Jan. 22, 2019.”

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