No legal weed shops wanted in Flower City, Brampton councillor says

A Brampton councillor has launched a campaign to ban the sale of marijuana in local stores, saying "The Flower City" doesn't need retail weed on every block.

Charmaine Williams launching campaign to ban marijuana stores in Brampton

'I know it's not cool to say so, but Brampton is known as the Flower City and we don't need weed in our garden,' says Charmaine Williams. The Brampton councillor is launching a campaign against private retail pot stores being located in the city. The campaign will take the form of a petition, website and lawn signs. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

A Brampton councillor has launched a campaign to ban the sale of marijuana in private local stores, saying "The Flower City" doesn't need retail weed shops on every block.

Charmaine Williams, who represents Ward 7 and 8 in Brampton, said she believes there is considerable opposition to the sale of marijuana through bricks-and-mortar stores in Brampton based on what she calls "extensive" feedback from community members.

"I have come to the conclusion that Brampton would be better off without marijuana stores on every corner," she told CBC Toronto on Sunday.

"I know it's not cool to say so, but Brampton is known as the Flower City and we don't need weed in our garden."

Coun. Charmaine Williams is offering 'Not In Our Neighbourhood' signs for any residents in her wards who want to show support for a ban on legal weed shops in Brampton. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

On Sunday afternoon, Williams knocked on doors in her wards and offered to place "Not In Our Neighbourhood" signs on the lawns of residents.

"The families of the doors I've been knocking on are completely against this," she said. 

Municipalities can opt-out of having physical cannabis retail stores in their communities, but must say so before Jan. 22, 2019, according to the Cannabis Licence Act 2018.

In the past three months, Williams says she has conducted a poll of constituents in her two wards, held a community consultation meeting on Oct. 29, attended similar meetings in other areas of Peel Region and analyzed funding offers from the province to help municipalities implement recreational cannabis laws.

Province's funding offer a 'pittance'

The province has said it would provide $40 million to municipalities over two years to help local governments implement the legalization of cannabis in their communities.

Williams called the funding offer a "pittance." 

In a recent letter to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said $15 million will first be divided among the province's municipalities at the start of the new year, with funding allocated on a per household basis and all communities receiving at least $5,000.

An additional $15 million will then go to municipalities that agree to host cannabis retail stores within their boundaries.

Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli says the Doug Ford government is committed to creating a 'safe retail model' that would eliminate the illegal cannabis market in the province. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Fedeli said the funds for municipalities can only be used for a prescribed set of circumstances including heightened enforcement, increased response to public inquiries, increased paramedic or fire services and by-law or policy development.

The finance minister has said the government is committed to creating a "safe retail model" that would eliminate the illegal cannabis market in the province.

'People are stuck in the stigma'

Not everyone agrees with Williams.

Lisa Campbell, chair of the Ontario Cannabis and Consumer Alliance, said on Sunday that municipalities are missing several opportunities when they turn their back on opening legal stores.

"People are stuck in the stigma of the old black market," she said. 

Campbell said there is "huge tax revenue" generated by the stores and a chance to replace the "strong" black market in suburban areas with a "clean, safe" regulated system. 

If Brampton rejects weed stores, she added that residents will still find a way to get their cannabis, either by ordering online or driving into Toronto to buy the product.

Lisa Campbell, chair of the Ontario Cannabis and Consumer Alliance, said legal pot shops can create 'huge opportunities' for municipalities, including tax revenues, cleaning up the black market and generating tourism. (Haweya Fadal/CBC)

City to hold debate on weed stores

Williams, who was first elected to council last October, planned to launch a petition on Sunday in the hopes of convincing other councillors to support her position.

She also planned to launch a website to enable residents to order a lawn sign for their front yards to show support for a proposed ban.

Brampton city council is scheduled to have its first debate on private retail cannabis stores on Wednesday. Williams said she encourages everyone, for or against the shops, to attend.

"We want our community to share their voices," she said. 

The federal government legalized recreational cannabis on Oct. 17. In Ontario, a government-run online store is currently the only way to purchase recreational pot. Private legal pot stores in the province are expected to start operating in April.

With files from The Canadian Press, Ieva Lucs, Haweya Fadal