County to poll residents on recreational cannabis retail stores

(Gazette file photo)



In advance of the opt-out date for municipalities to allow the private retail sale of recreational cannabis, the County of Prince Edward will be polling constituents for their feelings on the matter.

The Committee of the whole approved a motion to spend upwards of $10,000 on a survey project that allows county staff to consult with residents on the potential location of private cannabis retail establishments through telephone, online and hard copy surveys at a cost of between $5-10,000.

Staff will then compile their findings and present the new council with a recommendation prior to the proposed Jan. 22, 2019 Municipal private cannabis retail establishments opt out deadline.

While the details of the rollout of privatized recreational cannabis retail stores in Ontario seem to be a shifting landscape currently, the provincial government is calling for municipalities to declare by mid-January if they won’t cannabis shops in their communities.

In speaking to the motion, director of community development and strategic initiatives Neil Carbone told council approving a recommended means of consulting with the community so you can make a determination whether you want to prohibit retail stores from being established in Prince Edward County.

Anyone can continue to acquire cannabis products through the online retail store so nothing about this has anything to do with available or used cannabis in PEC, its whether or not you want to see private stores apply for and receive licences through the ACGO,” Carbone said.

According to Carbone’s report supporting a motion that would see the municipality secure the services of a third party polling company that would develop a series of questions for local residents, it’s stated municipalities have the ability of reversing an opt-out decision in the future however opting out could impact the amount of cannabis excise tax funds the municipality is eligible to receive.

And according to Carbone, putting off a choice of opting out wasn’t an option at all.

The defacto decision is that Prince Edward County is open to retail licences and potential business could start applying (after the opt out deadline), Carbone added.

The survey will include several methods of information gathering including a mailed and telephone survey as well as an online survey.

Carbone added that a telephone survey would provide a crucial portion of the information.

When we have open houses or simply voluntary surveys, those tend to provide a certain type of response that’s very polarized,” he added.

During the discussion, it was clear the motion appearing before a council that was nearing the end of its term complicated matters somewhat.

Councillor Gord Fox didn’t support the motion due to the fact the physical retail shops would be under provincial control and felt there was no advantage to the county whatsoever.

If anybody wants a little toke, they re going to go across the bridge because it will be cheaper,” Fox said.

Councillor Kevin Gale said spending unbudgeted money with 15 days left in the current term of council was an issue for him and wondered it the new council shouldn’t deal with the motion.

But Prince Edward County chief administrative officer Jame s Hepburn explain there simply would be enough time to gather input, formulate a report and present it to the new council ahead of the provincially imposed deadline.

We’re trying to judge public sentiment, the next council can make this decision on their own if they wish but we feel it would be good to have a good understanding if the public would like to see this or not,” Hepburn said.

In supporting the motion, councillor Bill Roberts said the information would be useful not only for residents opinions on whether they supported physical private cannabis retail stores but where they might or might not want to see them.

In some cases the research undertaken by other municipalities in Ontario have allowed planners and councils to dissuade retail shops in certain heritage districts and communities of interest.

Councillor Janice Maynard agreed the survey was likely good value for the information it could unearth and pointed out to Fox that “It is illegal to purchase marijuana on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and it will likely to continue to be.”

The motion will go before council at an upcoming meeting to be ratified.