Eisenberger plans to sell marijuana shares so he can join in pot debates

Hamilton's mayor says he's looking at selling his shares in a marijuana production company so he can participate in pot-related debates around the council table.

Eisenberger is one of 13 candidates for mayor

Fred Eisenberger says he plans to sell his shares in a local marijuana production company. That way, "I can continue to weigh in on the issue going forward." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's mayor says he's looking at selling his shares in a marijuana production company so he can participate in pot-related debates around the council table.

Fred Eisenberger bought shares in a major marijuana production company in 2017, about a year ahead of cannabis becoming legal in Canada. Since then, companies such as Beleave and Green Organic Dutchmen have applied to build massive facilities in rural Hamilton, and the city has scrambled to crack down on illegal dispensaries.

Now city council will debate asking the province for control over where legal marijuana stores go after Oct. 17. This includes how many can be in one neighbourhood, where they're located and what they look like. 

Eisenberger declares a conflict of interest on all but the illegal dispensary conversations. Council members declare conflicts of interest when they stand to financially benefit from decisions.

But as pot becomes an increasingly prevalent issue, Eisenberger says he wants to participate.

When he bought the shares, he said, he signed on for a set time period. That period expires in November.

"I will rectify that conflict in November," he said Wednesday.

"That's what I think I'm going to do and that's probably where I'll end up on that date."

Marijuana has become a prevalent issue in Hamilton, including where production facilities can locate, how big they can be and where legal pot will be sold. The city also grapples with more than 50 illegal marijuana dispensaries. (Chris Seto/CBC)

Eisenberger and his wife bought shares in a local licensed production company last year. He won't say which one or how many shares. They bought the shares as "an investment opportunity," he said.

Eisenberger is running in the Oct. 22 municipal election. The city's integrity commissioner, he said, has told him not to discuss marijuana while campaigning.

If someone brings up pot on the campaign trail, "I could say that I have a conflict and I can identify what the conflict is." 

Eisenberger's closest competitor in the mayoral race, Vito Sgro, doesn't own shares in a cannabis company. But he doesn't mind that Eisenberger does. Elected officials, he said, are entitled to make legal investments. 

"As long as the elected official removes herself/himself from ALL conversations and decisions relating to the issue in conflict, then I don't see a problem," Sgro said in an email.

"I feel that cannabis-related issues will have a very large impact in Hamilton over the next four years. If handled properly, there will be great opportunities for Hamilton."

A report coming to city council's planning committee Sept. 18 is a sign of just how big an issue marijuana is here.

Right now, there are 53 illegal dispensaries in Hamilton, the report says. Officials have closed 41, but most just reopen again.

The city has issued 84 zoning compliance notices, laid 53 zoning charges and 40 food premises notices, and issued 11 sign violations, as well as 55 fines for not complying with orders. 

On Wednesday, city council also approved new rules for legal growing and harvesting facilities.

This includes allowing facilities around the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. The facilities also have to be 150 metres from "sensitive land uses" such as homes and institutions. 

Jim Davis, Paul Fromm, Carlos Gomes, Edward HC Graydon, Todd May, Michael Pattison, George Rusich, Phil Ryerson, Ute Schmid-Jones, Ricky Tavares, Nathalie Xian Yi Yan and Mark Wozny are also running for mayor.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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