What was illegal becomes legal.
The impacts of legal, non-medical cannabis will be felt at the local level where people live and interact every day. At the same time, Canadian youth use cannabis at amongst the highest rates in the world. What tools and resources will communities have to regulate location, hours, staffing, etc. of retail cannabis outlets? I recently posed this question to the Attorney General and was told the Province will be consulting with communities to determine what regulations are needed.
I believe that the wisest choice for Midland is to opt out of the retail outlet model until the Province has finished its consultations and the regulatory environment is clearer. This will give Council time to consult with the community to gauge the appetite for retail outlets and what regulations/controls residents wish to see placed on retail outlets if approved.
Recreational cannabis is a steep learning curve for all. What do we need to know and prepare for as October’s effective date for legalisation nears?
The facts as we know them:
On Monday August 13, the provincial government reversed the previous government’s approach on retail for recreational cannabis announcing that it will move ahead to allow private sector cannabis retail storefronts in Ontario. As of October 17, 2018 the provincially owned Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) will be ready to manage on-line retail orders for cannabis. It will also be solely responsible for wholesale distribution in Ontario.
Licensed retail outlets will be allowed throughout the province as of April 01, 2019. Stores licensees will have to meet standard province-wide license criteria such as hours of operation and staff training. New municipal councils will be given the ability for a “one time” opt out of licensed sales in their communities after the municipal election. To be clear, if they opt out initially they can opt-in later. The government committed to providing $40 million of cannabis revenues to support municipal implementation costs over two years. If provincial cannabis revenues exceed $100 million, the government will share the surplus 50/50 with municipal governments.
- The government will consult with municipalities, police, industry and other stakeholders to propose new legislation in the autumn to allow licensed, private retail cannabis sales by April 1, 2009
- The minimum age for buying and possessing cannabis in Ontario is 19. Licensees caught selling cannabis to underage individuals will immediately lose their licenses.
- Current cannabis retail establishments remain illegal. Unlicensed outlets are subject to severe, escalating fines.
- Drugged driving will be subject to increased penalties and there will be zero tolerance for impaired young, novice and commercial drivers.
- Consumption will be able to take place only in a private residence as of October 17.
- Landlords and condominium boards are able to set rules on consumption.
Federal law allows up to four plants to be grown in a residence.
What are our options municipally?
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) published the following:
AMO is a strong municipal voice in determining appropriate locations and concentrations that reflect communities’ needs and wants.
For municipal governments, these proposed changes will require some significant decisions. New councils will have to decide whether they wish to allow private licensed retail establishments or not. The mechanism for this decision is subject to consultation.
If councils do allow these establishments, they will need to amend their planning by-laws to set appropriate areas for this activity. It is not yet certain whether councils will be able to control for density or cap numbers. Passing this by-law with appropriate consultation by April 1, 2019 will be extremely challenging.
The licensing mechanism is yet to be set. Municipal licensing and enforcement could be significantly stretched if more is expected of them. Some Licensing by-laws would need to create them and hire enforcement by April 1, 2019 if municipal licensing is contemplated. While AMO supported municipal licensing for cannabis establishments in 2016, doing so now across Ontario is impractical. A provincial licensing body would be more appropriate.
Related to this, the $40 million over two years is not based on a significant increase in municipal licensing and enforcement. If these services are required, additional funding would be necessary.
My Commitment to Midland Residents:
I am committed to public consultation on whether Midland will permit retail outlets for cannabis within municipal limits. Municipal governments need all the necessary tools and information to protect all residents in our communities.
While this retail system consultation is starting up, I urge the provincial government to provide more public information now on how the on-line distribution system will work as of October 17 and the identify the checks and balances that will be put in place to ensure compliance with the law.