Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay city council votes unanimously for private cannabis stores in the city

Residents in Thunder Bay, Ont., might soon be able to purchase their cannabis at a retail store in the city as council voted unanimously in favor of allowing private cannabis stores on Monday night.

Council voted to opt-in to allow cannabis stores on Monday night

Thunder Bay city council voted unanimously in favor of having private cannabis retail stores in the city. (CBC)

Thunder Bay city council has voted unanimously in favour of allowing private cannabis stores in the city.

The provicinal government gave Ontario municipalities until Jan. 22 to decide whether they want to permit or prohibit retailers.

However, no retailer in Thunder Bay has received a licence yet.

The Ford government has limited the number of cannabis stores province-wide to 25, with two of those allocated to the northern Ontario region. In addition, municipalities with more than 50,000 people are allowed to house cannabis stores, which means only Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury or North Bay meet the criteria.

On Monday, city council voted to opt-in, but out of all the committees, groups and city departments that were consulted on the matter, the Thunder Bay Police Service was the only one that was against the idea.

"That decision was made early on in the process when there were several, if not more, unanswered questions," Don Lewis, the acting deputy chief of Thunder Bay police said, adding that there were so many unknown factors that police felt "it wasn't responsible ... as an enforcement agency to opt-in."

He said that with the predicted shortage of cannabis supplies, "there's just not a real comfort level with whoever the licence holder may be," as they are not "entirely confident that the illicit side wouldn't be able to creep in and potentially supply the private seller."

The city's decision to opt-in to allow cannabis stores also means it will be receiving funding of approximately $130,000 from the province, followed by another payment of a similar amount.

Mayor Bill Mauro recommended that about $120,000 be directed to the Thunder Bay Police Service's budget "in order to respond to increased enforcement and increased response to public inquiries," and additional funding be directed to the city for operating costs.