Town Staff have made a big effort to provide a significant amount of information to help citizens and Council decide on the upcoming possible licensing of retail stores in Cobourg. As well as an online survey, and written submissions, there will be three meetings where citizens can give Council their views: a public meeting on the subject on December 17, the first meeting of the Committee of the Whole for the new council on January 7 and the first regular Council meeting on January 14. The public has been informed of this with social media, a special web page, a mass mailing, posters and newspaper advertising. Although there will be an indication of what citizens and councillors think at the Public meeting, this report will summarize what we are being told going into that meeting.
The public meeting will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and will hear reports from Municipal Clerk Brent Larmer, Deputy Police Chief Paul Vandegraaf, Catherine MacDonald from the Halliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, M.P.P. David Piccini, 21 written submissions by citizens and an unknown number of live presentations by citizens. As of December 10 when the meeting Agenda was written, 3,257 citizens had participated in the online survey with 79% opting in and 21% opting out. Note that from the time this survey was first available to now, the percentages have stayed about the same.
If you wish to see all the reports go to the Town’s Portal (see link below) but here are some key points compiled from all the reports:
- Municipalities may pass a resolution by January 22, 2019 to opt out of retail sale in their communities – if no resolution is passed, they will be deemed to have opted-in. If opt-out is chosen, the prohibition can be lifted in the future. However once cannabis retail stores are permitted it will not be possible to implement a prohibition later.
- Once permitted, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will have the authority to decide how many and where retail outlets will be permitted. Input from the municipality concerning a licence for a store is allowed (encouraged?) but the AGCO will have the right to make a final decision.
- Stores will not be eligible for a licence if they are “not in the public interest, having regard to the needs and wishes of the residents of the municipality.” Matters of “Public Interest” are 1. Protecting public health and safety. 2. Protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis. 3. Preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.
- Provincial legislation prohibits municipalities from passing by-laws designating cannabis retail as a separate land use or creating their own system of licensing.
- Since there are very short time frames for licensing and getting comments from the Town, staff recommends that this duty be delegated to staff with a pre-approved list of criteria.
- Although municipalities cannot regulate the stores, they can regulate smoking and vaping in the same way that they can regulate tobacco smoking.
- Police will be responsible for the enforcement of cannabis allowances (illegal/unlicensed storefronts) and impaired driving.
- Cannabis may only be sold to a person who appears to be over 25 and persons under 19 may not possess Cannabis. And of course, you are not allowed to drive while high. Basically the rules are about the same as for alcohol.
- Few of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have made a decision so far. As of December 14, 33% opted out with notably Markham and Mississauga opting out.
- Ashley Purdy reports that the “Town of Cobourg has achieved the highest level of citizen engagement to-date by being proactive and utilizing a variety of strategic communication and engagement tactics to ensure Cobourg citizens are not only informed but engaged.”
- The memo and presentation from the Health Unit repeated the above but added information on the health effects of Cannabis.
- M.P.P. David Piccini’s letter said that “The Legislation introduced was tabled after extensive consultation and would bring stricter controls to safeguard young people and combat the criminal market, in addition to providing safer ways to buy recreational cannabis legally.” He repeats that municipalities can regulate where marijuana is smoked.
- Provincial funding to help with the transition will initially provide at least $10,000 – if you opt-out, the maximum is $10,000. There is also a possible future share of excise duty if tax income is high.
Staff (Brent Larmer) recommends that Council receive the Staff report for information with the expectation that a final decision will be made at their January 14th meeting.
The public meeting on Monday will be at 6 pm in the Concert Hall in Victoria Hall – moved from Council chambers because of the size of the expected audience – and will accept presentations from the public. If they are anything like the written submissions, there will be at least some who are off-track by wanting Cannabis to be illegal (too late for that) and others who ask for stores to be located in certain locations (like Downtown or the Mall) when Council has no control over that.
Stay tuned for a report on that meeting.
- Town Portal with Agenda of Public Meeting and links to all the reports.
- List of Municipalities who opted in or out – official list
- Survey on Cannabis Retail Outlets – 26 November 2018
- Cobourg to hold Public Meeting on Cannabis Stores – 7 October 2018