Regional municipalities vote on allowing retail cannabis stores

Editor's note: Since the publication of this story on January 14, 2019, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge councils have joined Wellesley Township and have voted to "opt in" to allow retail cannabis shops.

by Helen Hall
Kitchener Citizen
January 14, 2019​

While the province has declared that the first retail cannabis shops will open April 1, 2019, it is still up in the air whether any of them will be located in Waterloo Region.

As of January 11, only one of the region’s seven municipalities had voted on whether to allow pot shops.

The province of Ontario has given municipalities until January 22 to “opt out” of having retail cannabis shops.
The Township of Wellesley opted in last week. The other councils have the item on the agenda prior to the January 22 deadline.

Although Wellesley has opted in, a pot shop will not be opening in the village this spring.

One of the provincial rules is that the first 25 stores must be located in municipalities of 50,000 people or more.
Staff reports from Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge recommend that their councils opt in to allowing retail cannabis outlets when they hold their votes prior to January 22.

“With cannabis consumption now being legal, allowing for provincially licensed cannabis stores will allow us to move from the illegal and often unsafe black market to safer, quality-regulated product from the legal market,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic when asked for his position.

“Allowing for legal retail stores locally will help achieve the objectives of safeguarding our youth, protecting our health and safety and preventing illicit activity - all with the assistance from provincial resources and regulatory bodies,” he added.

Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky said he would not speculate on how the vote would go in Waterloo, but conveyed his opinion on retail cannabis shops.

“The decision for me really comes down to supporting the free market, or allowing the black market to keep its monopoly, selling a potentially contaminated product,” he said. “For safety, I lean towards opting in.”

Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry said her council will vote on January 15 and she looks forward to the discussion.

“My opinion is that we should provide a safe, legal option for Cambridge residents,” she said.

Pot Shop Lottery

​The previous Liberal government had planned to sell cannabis through LCBO stores in Ontario.

When the Conservative government was elected in the spring, they decided cannabis would be sold through private retailers, and it rolled out a new plan for its distribution.

A lottery would be held by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to choose the first 25 private retailers that could apply to sell cannabis.

Between January 7 and 9, individuals and businesses filed an “expression of interest” to operate a cannabis shop in the province. There was a $75 fee to get into the lottery. The lottery draw was held on January 11.

The 25 “expression of interest” winners will be the first allowed to fill out an application to operate a legal retail cannabis store in Ontario.

A waiting list was also drawn to fill in for those in the first 25 whose application does not pass the provincial test, or who decide after the lottery not to apply.

With their application, expression of interest lottery winners must submit a $50,000 Letter of Credit (which will be drawn on if they are not able to meet the April 1, 2019 timeline), pay a non-refundable $6,000 Retail Operator Licence application fee, and following completion of the Retail Operator Licence application, pay a non-refundable $4,000 Retail Store Authorization application fee.

To ensure the first 25 outlets are located throughout Ontario, the government has designated distribution of the stores across the province.

Five stores will be located in the East Region (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, Prescott and Russell, Ottawa, Leeds and Grenville, Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Hastings, Prince Edward, Northumberland, Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Simcoe, Muskoka, Haliburton, Renfrew); six stores in the GTA Region (Durham, York, Peel and Halton); two stores in the North Region (Nipissing, Parry Sound, Sudbury, Greater Sudbury, Timiskaming, Cochrane, Algoma, Thunder Bay, Rainy River, Kenora); five stores in the Toronto Region; and seven stores in the West Region (Dufferin-Wellington, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldi-mand-Norfolk, Brant, Waterloo, Perth, Oxford, Elgin, Chatham-Kent, Essex, Lambton, Middlesex, Huron, Bruce, Grey, Manitoulin).

The winners of the expression of interest lottery are listed on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario website.
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