Ottawa

Eligible or not, eastern Ontario towns opting in to host pot shops

Communities across eastern Ontario are opting into the province's scheme for licensing cannabis retailers, even though many of them are too small to qualify for the initial round of 25 locations.

Cornwall, Hawkesbury want in on AGCO lottery, but they're too small for initial round

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is holding a lottery Friday to choose the province's first 25 cannabis retailers. (David Horemans/CBC)

Communities across eastern Ontario are opting into the province's scheme for licensing cannabis retailers, even though many of them are too small to qualify for the initial round of 25 locations.

Only municipalities with more than 50,000 residents can participate in Friday's lottery by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Results are expected to be announced within 24 hours of the draw.

Right now, recreational cannabis can only be purchased legally in Ontario through a government-run website. The privately operated stores are set to open April 1.

According to AGCO's website, "east region" communities that qualify for the initial round include Barrie, Belleville, Kawartha Lakes, Kingston, Peterborough and Ottawa.

Moving forward 

Ottawa, Kingston, and Peterborough have already opted in. Belleville and Barrie plan to make a decision Monday, and Kawartha Lakes will vote Tuesday.

Although their populations are too small to qualify for Friday's draw, Cornwall and Hawkesbury have already opted in.

Hawkesbury Coun. Antonios Tsourounakis fears the eastern Ontario town could lose out on investment if it doesn't act now. (Radio-Canada)

"If we don't decide today and we push the decision off to the future, what happens is that the people that are looking to invest who open these stores — they'll be left with uncertainty," Hawkesbury Coun. Antonios Tsourounakis said Thursday.

"They have to do studies, they have to do financing, they have to do a lot of things," Tsourounakis said. "Some of those people might go elsewhere. We're going to lose those investments."

So far only two communities in the AGCO's east region have opted out: Township of Frontenac Islands near Kingston, and Casselman, just east of Ottawa.

A full list of the communities can be found here..
 

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.