More Info on Cannabis Retail Sales in Cobourg

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.

Suzanne Seguin
Suzanne Séguin

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.

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Walter L. Luedtke

Chuckles!
The Peoples Premier just announced that there will be only 24 store licenses for the whole Province.
The Feds are making it so difficult to grow cannabis for rec use that there is a shortage of supply.
Funny thing is that private/illegal enterprise never seems to have that problem.
But Mr. Piccini better hustle to get a licence here.
In the meantime, we can have lots more meetings with public input.

Albert

Maybe ridings who threw out a liberal should get first crack at a license

Frenchy

Smirks.
There are only 24 licenses to be had. Double that number of ridings threw out the Liberals.

manfred s

while somewhat amusing, Walter, it strikes me as typically condescending on the part of a governing body, to be soliciting in-depth public opinion and input on a relatively minor short term issue (which is really more about righteousness) while ignoring the opinions and input (through the likes of in-depth surveys and multiple public meetings) of those same citizens, in deference to moneyed interests, when it comes to issues of upheaving the Official Plan, something that would have far more impact and effect on the town’s future. The day THAT changes will be one to celebrate indeed, and go a long way in building my trust in the political establishments we have today.

manfred s

how many LCBOs and Brewers Retail outlets, and all the smaller dealers, now including grocery stores, do we have across this province? 24 outlets, in total, to legally dispense another intoxicant seems, well, utterly asinine, never mind the certainty that consumption will not be affected by this limited access to legal sources. As by example of Buck-a-beer, something like ‘toonie-doobie’ would seem more appropriate in today’s market, and supply a burgeoning demand that is only going to ‘grow’ and eventually overtake the alcohol market. Talk about fake restraint on the part of government.

Rusty Brown

A tourist town with no pot shop? Seriously?

Waterwatcher

I thought the deadline for applying for a license was this week or next, are we really going to be this far behind before making a decision so folks can apply?

Liz

If people want to buy the weed, they should buy it locally. No point in sending them out of town to get it. They just might do ALL of their shopping elsewhere!

Gailr97

I would assume that as the Town is able to tell banks to be downtown – which is why they are in Cobourg, but not in Port Hope – and breweries that they can’t, which is why they are not (still with me?) it could also say where dispensaries can and can’t be.

manfred s

we’re really talking about a specific use zoning issue, aren’t we Gail. The town can specify land use parameters and by inclusion, and exclusion, effectively control the location of any pot stores that might be approved by the gov’t.

Gailr97

That’s right, Manfred. Wonder why people don’t seem to like us saying that.

Walter L. Luedtke

Wow three meetings with public input – openness and transparency with a vengeance.
And the ‘Nanny State’ in full flight.
Reminds me of ‘Toronto The Good’ of old.
Then it was demon rum, beverage rooms, ladies and escorts, wine with dinner only in restaurants, no bottles on view in LCBO stores. Local Option votes, etc etc.
Anything and everything to make it difficult for adults to buy and consume a legal product.
Puhleeese!