Toronto

Local politicians want more details on 'one-time offer' to opt out of pot shops

Municipal politicians across Ontario have many questions about the province's new cannabis distribution model, including when the government's one-time offer to municipalities allowing them to opt out of allowing cannabis stores is going to expire.

Pot on the agenda at meeting of Ontario municipalities next week

Municipalities have questions about the opt-out option for cannabis stores promised by the Ontario government. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Municipal politicians across Ontario have many questions about the province's new cannabis distribution model, including when the government's one-time offer to municipalities allowing them to opt out of allowing cannabis stores is going to expire.

A statement from a spokesperson for Toronto's mayor says John Tory supports legalization if safety and public health can be maintained and the city is not "burdened with the additional costs created by these changes."

The statement also says Tory is waiting to see the exact details before supporting the government's private retail model. 

But the Town of Richmond Hill voted no to cannabis stores last December, well in advance of legalization and before the Ford government, with its revamped pot policy for Ontario, was in power.

'We're not interested' in pot stores, Richmond Hill mayor says

"We're not interested," said Mayor Dave Barrow in a phone interview. "If someone wants to do that, they can go find out where they can do it."

His concern, similar to what he says he's heard from others in the community, is safety and the possibility of stores located near schools.

Questions about cannabis sales in Ontario have increased since the new PC government unveiled its plans on Monday, with privately-run stores set to open next April.

It's a much different model from the government-run stores that had been envisioned by the Liberal government.

Municipal politicians could receive some clarity from the government next week at the annual meeting of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, to be held in Ottawa. The premier and some cabinet ministers will be there, with cannabis listed as one of the key topics.

Barrow wants to know more about the opt-out process, how it will work, and whether it has an expiry date.

Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General sent a statement to CBC Toronto offering few details, but saying it wants to hear from municipalities. 

"We are committed to working with municipalities to help with the cost of legalization and combat crime," the statement reads in part.

"And we will be consulting with them on the development of a private retail store model, including further details on a one-time window under which they can choose to opt-out."

Richard Thomas, an Owen Sound councillor, doesn't want his city to opt out of cannabis stores: 'If people want to smoke pot, they're going to smoke pot and there's nothing the municipality can do to prevent that,' Thomas says.

Richard Thomas, a city councillor and historian in Owen Sound, which prohibited alcohol until 1972, feels that experience with booze can provide lessons as politicians consider their cannabis policy.

Thomas also wrote Saints and Sinners The Story of Owen Sound: Canada's Last Dry City a book about Owen Sound's long-running prohibition

Owen Sound was 'the wettest dry town around'

"It was also known as the wettest dry town around and I would suggest that if people want it, they're going to get it." 

He wonders about the status of roadside testing for marijuana impairment and whether any municipalities that opt out of stores could lose out on extra provincial funding for policing connected to cannabis issues.

Thomas wouldn't vote for his city to opt out.

"If people want to smoke pot, they're going to smoke pot and there's nothing the municipality can do to prevent that."

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