More than half of Ontario municipalities say yes to cannabis stores

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Votes in municipalities across Ontario have taken place to decide whether or not to allow recreational cannabis stores in their cities and more than half of the province’s eligible municipalities have said yes to hosting shops.  

 The province set a deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday for cities to let the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario know if they are choosing to opt in or out.

The province has a total of 444 municipalities but of those, 414 were making decisions on pot shops. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli told sources that giving municipalities the choice was the right thing to do.

“I recall when the Liberal government forces on municipalities wine turbines – you had no choice, they were in your community,” he said.

“Municipalities were cut out of the opportunity to choose and what we’ve done with cannabis is given them that right to choose … if they opt out that’s fine, that’s their choice to do so, they can always opt back in.”

Hamilton is one of the bigger municipalities that has opted to host cannabis shops.

“Hamilton will now receive substantial financial assistance from the provincial government to regulate these shops, ensure cannabis products sold are regulated by Health Canada and shut down illegal dispensaries in our city, ultimately removing funding from the black market,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger in a statement.

The City made their decision based on the results of a public survey which showed support. Other cities have not been so optimistic, including Oakville.

 “We are supporting a wait and watch approach at this time,” said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton in a statement. “Municipalities just don’t have enough input into cannabis retail stores when it comes to notice, location, zoning and licensing.”

The Mayor also said that the City will reconsider its decision in December of this year. Other cities that have opted out include Mississauga, Markham, Pickering, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

The province can expect to see stores opening April 1. Earlier this month, 25 licenses were awarded to hopeful retailers who were all in a lottery. Five licenses will be going to the east of the province, seven in the west of the province, two in the north, six in the Greater Toronto Area and five within the city of Toronto.

The province has warned retailers that if they’re not ready to go by April 1, they can face fines of up to $50,000.

“After today’s deadline, the ball is now in the court of the retailer to open welcoming storefronts with well-trained employees who will guide informed consumer purchase decisions,” said Lift’s CEO Matei Olaru. “Anything less will bolster the black market and discourage other municipalities from opting in later with a greater degree of comfort.”

 

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