Ottawa

Perth, Ont., votes to allow cannabis stores after all

Cannabis retailers will be allowed to set up shop in Perth, Ont., after the town voted in favour of permitting the stores — despite the wishes of the town's mayor.

Mayor had campaigned in favour of a 12-month hiatus

The town of Perth, Ont., will be allowing retail cannabis stores to set up shop after voting in favour earlier this month. The town's mayor had wanted to hold off on allowing the shops for one year. (Aislinn May/CBC)

Cannabis retailers will be allowed to set up shop in Perth, Ont., after the town voted in favour of permitting the stores — despite the wishes of the mayor.

During the fall election campaign, John Fenik pledged that if he were re-elected, he would introduce a motion at the town's December council meeting calling for a minimum 12-month wait-and-see period.

Fenik was indeed elected, and on Dec. 18 town council debated whether or not to allow the stores in the community.

Ultimately, council voted five to two in favour of retail cannabis, with no year-long hiatus.

"Whenever my council doesn't see things the way I see them, or if the vote doesn't go my way, I'm initially disappointed," Fenik said Thursday.

"[But] I respect the final decision that council's made, and I'll support it as we go forward."

Perth Mayor John Fenik said he was 'disappointed' by council's vote but would respect the decision to allow retail cannabis stores in the town south of Ottawa. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Town finances played role in vote

In August, the provincial government announced that municipalities would be given a one-time opportunity to opt out of hosting retail pot outlets.

Fenik said before the Oct. 22 election that he was concerned about unanswered questions around legalized cannabis, preferring Perth "hang back" and see how the new regime rolled out in other communities first.

However, council's decision means that Perth could become home to one of the first 25 retailers licensed to sell cannabis, as the province gradually phases in the stores.

Fenik said he remained "troubled" by some of the issues involving legalized cannabis — like the inability for communities to create zoning rules around where legal stores could go, as well as the potential costs of bylaw enforcement and addictions support.

He said council was likely swayed by two factors: potential tax revenue from the sales of retail cannabis, as well as a minimum $5,000 grant from the province, part of a $15-million funding pledge for communities that opt in.

"I think part of the decision-making was around finances," Fenik said. "And I understand that."

Despite the mayor's opposition, the vote's result has already stirred up business interest in the town of 6,000, 80 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa.

The day after the council meeting, Fenik said he met with "two fairly serious individuals" looking to open up cannabis outlets.