In the end, the allure of economic opportunity prevailed over health and policing concerns.
It was not unanimous, however, city council last night (Jan. 14) voted 6-2 to opt into the province’s cannabis retail outlet program. Councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Tinlin were opposed while Gary Clarke was absent for the vote.
Giving the green light to one or more retail outlets in St. Thomas doesn’t mean a pot shop will sprout up on a city street any time soon.
Last month the province reversed course and announced it will limit the number of initial licences to 25 because of cannabis supply shortages.
And last Friday (Jan. 11) in the opening round of the cannabis retail lottery, 25 winning applicants were announced – seven in southwestern Ontario – who now have the opportunity to apply for a provincial retail licence.
Kicking off the debate Monday evening, Coun. Jim Herbert stressed the question is not one of opting in or out, instead, it is a case of legal cannabis outlets versus the black market.
He later warned “It doesn’t make any difference whether we opt in or not, kids will still get it. It is legal.”
“We are not getting off scot-free with regard to law enforcement.”
In acknowledging he will support opting in, Coun. Steve Peters delved back into history to point out Col. Thomas Talbot – founder of Port Talbot and the Talbot settlement – grew hemp on his land.
Today continued Peters, we have new investment opportunities. He added the city should consider partnering with Elgin county to maximize those benefits.
On the flip side, Coun. Mark Tinlin voiced several objections including policing efforts and health risks, based on his personal experience in law enforcement with the RCMP.
“What are the long-term health effects on youth,” questioned Tinlin.
He continued, “We are not getting off scot-free with regard to law enforcement.”
And based on comments directed his way, Tinlin stressed: “Some merchants have said don’t put an outlet next to me.”
He pointed out several large municipalities – including Mississauga – have opted out at this time, although they do have the option of reversing that decision in the future.
Joining Tinlin in opposition, Kohler noted opting out doesn’t preclude those who use cannabis for medical purposes from obtaining it.
And piggy-backing on Tinlin’s closing remarks, Kohler reminded council the city will have no control over where those retail outlets will be located.
The exception being they cannot be situated within 150 metres (500 feet) of a school.
Having voted to opt in, the city will receive two lump sum payments from the province with the first, in the amount of $44,320 to be received this month.
The second payment, the amount yet to be determined, would be forwarded to the city after the Jan. 22 opt-out date.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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