Cobourg to Opt-in to Cannabis Retail stores

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Council voted 4 to 3 to “opt-in” to allowing retail Cannabis stores.  This has yet to be confirmed with a by-law at next Monday’s regular meeting but it’s unusual for councillors to change their vote.  There was a considerable debate after the staff motion was read by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin which recommended “opting out”.  John Henderson was strongly in favour of opt-out since not only could we opt in later but we could learn from other similar sized municipalities who had opted in.  Brian Darling pointed to the strong majority in the survey who had no concerns – 78.5% vs 21.5% of 3,458 participating. He felt that we need to act now or lose an opportunity.

Typical Cannabis store
Typical Cannabis store

Brian was also concerned about losing money from the Province – there would be more for those who opted in.  Two amounts of $5000 were mentioned and although this is split with the county, there were few details on what Cobourg would actually receive.

Another concern was that although applications for retail stores are now being accepted, it appears that Cobourg will not be eligible because it’s too small (although I thought Northumberland might qualify). Adam Bureau thought it would be strange to accept the idea of a “large grow op” in town (FV Pharma) but not permit a store. John Henderson said that FV Pharma would be permitted a dispensary by Federal regulations although that implies for medical use only. Nicole Beatty was in favour for opting in because it was innovative.

Emily Chorley said that the issue was of timing and whether regulations were right as of now.   She shared John’s concerns (e.g. proximity to day-cares) and repeated John’s idea of opting in later but wanted a commitment to reconsider within 12 months or when Cobourg was eligible for a store, whichever came first.

John and Emily were both concerned about the Ford government limiting the Town’s planning ability.  When asked to comment, Director of Planning Glenn McGlashon said that it was “a little concerning” and not thought through but that this was not the first time that the Provincial Government had limited local planning authority – the Liberals had done something similar under their Green plan.

Adam pointed to the fact that the Town did not have control over where Tobacco was sold and in fact only controls liquor (the LCBO must be only downtown or at the Mall) but not beer.  As Glenn said, if beer and wine were to be sold in corner stores, that would be comparable to Cannabis.

In the end a vote was called on the motion to Opt-out but it was defeated 4 – 3.  The 3 in favour (of Opting-out) were Mayor John Henderson, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Councillor Emily Chorley.  The 4 against were Nicole Beatty, Brian Darling, Adam Bureau and Aaron Burchat.  That means the Town will Opt-in to allowing retail Cannabis stores in the Town.


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10 January 2019 1:25 pm

I attended the long meeting on Monday when both the cannabis and council procedure rules were discussed.
Firstly, I would like to say that I was very impressed by the courtesy between all council members at a time when there were some very differing points being made. It augers well.
Secondly, I was rather confused with the motion on cannabis that was initially presented to Council. I thought I saw in the printed agenda that the option was provided to go either way – i.e. either opt in or out. That, at least, is what the on-line version says. However, when it was read out only the opt out version was mentioned. This obviously surprised at least some of the councilors and I was surprised that no one asked why there was the change. It was also, I think, rather a pity that Councillor Chorley’s suggestion that the Town opt out, at least temporarily, until there could be observation of how retail stores in other municipalities were faring was not considered. With a large cannabis producer in town it is probably pretty certain that they would like a retail outlet, but if the Town had waited until it saw how other municipalities had dealt with having retail stores in their community it would have been helpful.

Reply to  GailR97
10 January 2019 3:19 pm

GailR97 – that opportunity to see how other municipalities deal with having a retail store may still be there given there are only 25 stores being allocated this year. Opting-in doesn’t guarantee a store in April it is simply a means to acknowledge that Cobourg is open to being considered as a host community in the future.

Reply to  Rob
10 January 2019 3:37 pm

My understanding is that if you opt in, you’re in and can’t change your mind. But if you opt out, you can change your mind at least for a little while.

Reply to  GailR97
10 January 2019 5:16 pm

GailR97 – I’m not disputing that however there are only 25 stores opening in Ontario in April – 5 of those will be in Toronto, 2 of those in Northern Ontario. It is a lottery system and the Cobourg based firm would have to be drawn from the more than 6000 firms who have applied. Whether its in April 2019 or April 2020 it is coming to Cobourg …

Walter L. Luedtke
9 January 2019 3:54 pm

And in other local cannabis news:
FV Pharma, a licensed cannabis producer under the Cannabis Act, has completed the harvest of its second lot of cannabis and successfully passed all analytical testing, thereby positioning the Company to request a Pre-Sales License Inspection from Health Canada.
The Pre-Sales License Inspection is the last step prior to the issuance of a Sales License under the Cannabis Act and Regulations.
Zeeshan Saeed, President and Founder of FSD Pharma stated, “With the completion of analytical testing and the recent addition of grow rooms to our license, we are now positioned to submit our readiness report for a pre-sale inspection, while at the same time being able to continuously cultivate and harvest all existing licensed space so as to maximize supply to the medicinal and recreational markets.
This is yet another significant step in the Company’s strategic implementation of its business plan to be the largest indoor licensed producer of cannabis.”

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
10 January 2019 11:54 am

As wonderful wonderland as Walter extols govt licenced pot producers, the govt controlled good stuff costs more for consumers to purchase product than from a free lance (unlicenced) neighbourhood dealer. Government CONTROL don’t come cheap.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
13 January 2019 8:37 pm

Not “the largest indoor licensed producer of cannabis” actually. According to their web site, they want to be the “largest indoor hydroponic grower”. That one word makes a big difference. They are only competing against other hydroponic growers for the title.

9 January 2019 12:15 pm


-Secondly, the financial carrot being dangled by the Prov gov is a future bet NOT a certainty. I’m speaking beyond the initial 5K (which is peanuts). Councilors Darling & Bureau mentioned several times that our municipality would miss out on grants/share of the tax revenues going forward. They even raised the specter that should we opt out & then opt in down the road we would not share in any of the tax benefits, ever. The Treasurer expressed the opinion that it was difficult to believe that ‘opt-out-Municipalities’ would forever forfeit participation in the tax benefits when they decided to opt-in. Again this is a future bet! .
-Finally, yes I can hear it now, anyway we are a small community & will feel the impacts (positive & negative) of this legislation. I’m no longer an ‘opt-in’ kinda guy, I feel strongly that there will be many, many lessons learned across this province & Cobourg should be looking to reduce the negative risks associated with the negative impacts. I feel the Councilors need to protect the Towns governance mandate including its right to a ubiquitous set of principles & guidelines relating to Planning & Development.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  gerinator
9 January 2019 12:58 pm

“I’m no longer an ‘opt-in’ kinda guy, I feel strongly that there will be many, many lessons learned across this province & Cobourg should be looking to reduce the negative risks associated with the negative impacts.

What negative risks? What negative impacts? The negative risks belonged to free lance dealers who faced jail. The negative impacts belonged to 18 year old users who faced jail, fine and a criminal record for life. What negatives are worse than that?

I know one couple during the 70s who took out a mortgage for a farm north of Grafton. They grew pot in a secluded area of their farm. Their clientele was selected. They paid off their mortgage in 5 years. I know a student at Loyalist College who paid off all her student loans ahead of time as well as buying a van which doubled as a mobile toking den for her clients. They risked a long term in jail.

The selling of pot in Cobourg is free lance, is a daily occurrence. The dealers I know have nothing to do with alternative drugs, eg, opiods, coke, etc. They don’t need the hassle, not just from the cops, but from the strung-out users.

Whether Cobourg has a retail outlet matters very little. What once was a free lance relationship between individual and a grower/dealer is being usurped by govt, and govt LOVES CONTROLS. The general public loves controls, lots of controls, lots and lots of controls.

Just remove pot from legislation and then ignore it.

manfred s
Reply to  gerinator
14 January 2019 11:17 am

repeating…take a look at the lottery business and the role and power of the OLG. What lessons have been ‘learned’ in that gov’t enterprise ?

9 January 2019 12:14 pm

For me there was some very pragmatic statements made last evening that I wasn’t aware of when I voted to opt in.
-Firstly, if you opt-in the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) immediately becomes the final arbiter about Cannabis retailers (location & their distribution) & how many. The normal function(s) of the Planning & Development mandate are subordinated to the AGCO. This prospect brought back memories of the OMB (now defrocked thank God) & how they pushed around Towns & Cities in Ontario for decades. As a natural consequence to this the Provincial gov is now in the real estate business, not a happy thought. Further neither the AGCO nor prospect retailers are required to notify any municipality of where they wish to locate, if this isn’t cutting the legs out of a major role of our Governance structure I don’t know what it. Going back to the distribution for a sec, is it possible that retailers will all vie for the same locale & Cobourg will end up with a strip, perhaps on King, of multiple vendors? I think about the 1st time I strolled the downtown & wondered whether the citizenry were all tattooed, given the number & location of these retailers, perhaps a rite of passage?

manfred s
Reply to  gerinator
10 January 2019 10:55 am

your issue with the planning aspect is moot when you look at the lottery industry in Ontario. The OLG, now operating from within the AGCO, has always had the final say in who, where and how many when it comes lottery outlets. Of course, OLG is the officially sanctioned gambling enterprise that was intended to replace illegal (read un-taxed) gambling activity such as numbers-running and the once famously surreptitious “Irish sweepstakes” that had a ubiquitous presence in even the most respected and reserved offices and workplaces. Now we know how critical the gambling issue has turned out to be and how the lack of control by our planners, over outlets, has made a shambles of the planning process so it might seem prudent to take a long hard second and third look at that as we face the intrusion of another ‘sanctioned vice’ into our little corner of the province. We must do something to stem the flow of toddlers to teens into those gambling arcades, some of which are operating in full view of all right there in our favourite grocery and drug stores. Really, c’mon gerinator, this is a fairly new century and we have some far more problematic issues to resolve, don’t ya think?

Brian Kerr
8 January 2019 3:17 pm

Any town or municipality that opts out should not benefit from the tax revenue generated. The mayor and DM surely should be doing what they can to support a company that has setup the largest cannabis manufacturing facility in the world RIGHT in Cobourg. The taxes they will generate from FSD must be HUGE ( pun intended) for The town.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Brian Kerr
13 January 2019 8:48 pm

“Largest indoor, hydroponic cannabis facility…” They may actually be the biggest of a very small type of facility compared to non-hydroponic ones.

8 January 2019 2:57 pm

After attending the Town Hall meeting in December and seeing and hearing the pros and cons of selling cannabis and now to read the close vote held by Council Monday stumps me. Would it not seem the Council had a clear mandate from those they asked if we wanted to opt into selling cannabis in the future. How high of a percentage is necessary. Seventy-five percent seems pretty convincing. What were the reasons for the DM and mayor voting against? Can anyone elaborate?

As for the comment selling near DayCare Centres. Really? When was the last time you saw a toddler using cannabis? Perhaps this new counsellor misspoke, if not, we are in for a ride.

Reply to  Gerald
8 January 2019 4:36 pm

I suspect the concern regarding the proximity to daycares is that a legal and regulated cannabis store will invite unsavory characters, organized crime and tweaking drug addicts to the area which obviously would be very dangerous … give us a break Emily! There is a daycare two blocks from Shoppers Drug Mart and you can buy beer and cider at Walmart which is only several blocks of Terry Fox Public School/YMCA daycare. It was a weak argument and clearly not a time she was listening to the (75%) community as she suggested she would during her campaign. It might have been better to suggest that a legal cannabis retailer in close proximity to a daycare will create a traffic flow issue as mommy’s and daddy’s try to quickly navigate out of the store parking lot before picking up their little bundles of joy from the nearby daycare.

8 January 2019 2:32 pm

I’m a little surprised the vote of 4-3 however I suspect that’s what we would call good’ ole politicking…building those alliances and creating opportunities for reciprocity early in the term. This group dynamic should be interesting to watch evolve, erode and unfold….

Walter L. Luedtke
8 January 2019 1:30 pm

Why would the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, and Ms Chorley defy the ‘will of the people’?
78.5 – 21.5% seem quite compelling.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
8 January 2019 5:08 pm

Because they have principles?

8 January 2019 11:57 am

Why should patrons go out of town to purchase pot. They might just as well keep all their weekly shopping in our own neighbourhood.

manfred s
Reply to  Liz
10 January 2019 11:59 am

I’m going to speculate here and say that nobody’s going too far out of town now for their supply of the demon weed, if they’re already fans of the stuff. I also suspect that that won’t change either, whatever happens with legal outlets coming on stream as time goes by. The irresistible lure of a lucrative new revenue stream will likely see a surge of new outlets across the province once the mandatory ‘wait’n’see’ period has been dutifully imposed and dealt with, at least for the optics.

Walter L. Luedtke
8 January 2019 9:32 am

Congratulations to the stalwarts on Council who voted to allow the sale of a legal product produced right here.
The Province is raffling off 5 licenses for Eastern Ontario.
The winners of the lottery have till April 1st to open and start selling Cannabis.
If they don’t sell, they will be heavily fined.
It used to be that you fined when you sold the stuff.
But then …!

manfred s
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
8 January 2019 10:29 am

heck…maybe we’ll see ‘buck-a-baggie’ as an incentive to generate volume in officially sanctioned locations.
So far as the school proximity issue goes, you can bet that the school-halls have neen active quasi-commercial networks for some time already. They may not be active product distribution centers but sure as shootin’ there’s a whole lot of ‘business arranging’ goin’ on to keep off-site distribution humming along just fine. This is not far removed from the issues of speak-easies and numbers-running back in the days of yore before alcohol and gambling were finally legalized to let governments profit from something that was happening already, legally or otherwise. C’mon, who actually thinks that a savvy pot-retailer would consider a non- commercial area like a school zone to be a smart business location in the first place? Wouldn’t a location in proximity to a liquor, beer or grocery store make more sense?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
8 January 2019 5:18 pm

“It used to be that you fined when you sold the stuff.

It was worse Walter. I watched many Cobourg youths frogmarched to jail for selling a gram of hash. The narcs from the Peterborough detachment often came to Cobourg to shake down the youth. Several times I walked along King Street about 8pm when a car pulls up right beside me, and plain clothes officer gets out, shows me id, pushes me into the back of the car. “Take off your shoes and socks, empty your pockets.” So I complied. This went on several times more that summer, until I told Foster Russell about it and he invited me to write about it in the Cobourg Sentinel Star. The RCMP officer that patted me down was Constable Ronald McIntyre. I wasn’t the only teen getting this shakedown treatment in Cobourg. I also carried a camera with me and took pictures of the narcs whenever I could. They were impotent to do anything about that. Not fines Walter, JAIL. FOR WEED!

John L. Hill
8 January 2019 8:26 am

All councillors are to be congratulated on a lively and well-considered debate on allowing Cobourg to participate in retail sale of cannibis. Councillor Brian Darling spear-head the “opt-in” sector and was very persuasive in his argument the town would lose considerable funding if it were to opt out.
The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillor Chorley argued vigorously that Cobourg should refrain and opt in only after observing how other towns are faring as the legalization is tested.
The flaw in the opt out logic was that Cobourg will not be in line for a licence in the foreseeable future and the Town is better off accepting some of the windfall funds all the while observing the strategies employed by municipalities that are granted a licence. So in effect, by opting in, the major arguments of both sides are accomplished.
Regardless of the outcome, thank you to our current council for being well prepared and presenting legitimate arguments for our consideration.

Reply to  John L. Hill
8 January 2019 9:37 am

Yeah well!
Council was not impressed by Emily Chorley’s worries about ‘proximity to day cares’.
But no right-thinking Cobourger wants to see stoned toddlers in their prams.

Reply to  Albert
8 January 2019 10:35 am

And no cannabis sales outlet will sell to toddlers who wander in.

Rusty Brown
Reply to  Mary
13 January 2019 9:00 pm

I still get a chuckle from the report in MacLeans Magazine that said that a sales outlet “must be 500 meters from a school”. They meant at least 500 meters distant from a school, but that’s not what they said.