Ottawa·Live Blog

Ottawa city council deciding whether to allow pot shops

A special meeting on opting in or out of legal, private cannabis stores is underway.

Staff recommend they be allowed

Private cannabis stores are expected to start opening in Ontario in April 2019. Ottawa councillors will decide today if they can operate in this city. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Ottawa city councillors are deciding whether to puff or pass on recreational cannabis stores.

The provincial government has given municipalities the right to not allow private cannabis stores within their borders.

A report to Ottawa city councillors recommends allowing the shops in the city, but the final decision is in council's hands.

City staff said not allowing stores here would not stop people here from getting marijuana.

"In such a case, local consumers may choose to turn to the illicit market," it said.

"Local consumers may also turn to the illegal market if they have concerns with online purchasing privacy or if they simply want in person service and product knowledge firsthand."

Mayor Jim Watson has said he supports allowing the stores in Ottawa.

"We can argue until the cows come home whether it's the right thing to do or not, but at the end of the day, it is legal to possess cannabis and we should be in the business of providing storefronts for that," he said.  

Mayor Jim Watson has said the city should allow cannabis stores in the city, though he wants more control over their location. (CBC)

In the city's public consultation, 80 per cent of residents wanted the city to allow these shops.

A telephone poll done by EKOS research suggested 48 per cent of respondents were in favour of pot shops, while 43 per cent were against.

Under the current rules, municipalities don't have a say over where pot shops are located, which Watson has raised with Premier Doug Ford.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will decide where stores are allowed.

Staff are recommending the city develop a process to share opinions with the ACGO when new stores are proposed.