Article by Mitch Potter, Toronto Star
From the tiniest town councils to the leafiest suburban chambers, Ontario’s 444 municipalities are feeling a regulatory hangover as they grapple with how to navigate Premier Doug Ford’s new plan to hand storefront cannabis sales to the private sector.
For at least one town — Richmond Hill — the answer to the culture shock is a simple thanks-but-no-thanks, regardless of who’s selling. Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow renewed his opposition to a bricks-and-mortar cannabis shop in a statement Tuesday, saying, “I expect the option to opt out will be the choice we make when the province provides the ability to do so.”
That refrain is already echoing through local government chambers elsewhere in Canada. In Saskatchewan, for example, five of the province’s 36 municipalities have flat-out declined to host cannabis retail outlets, effectively self-designating as “dry towns,” to borrow a phrase from alcohol prohibition a century ago.
How many Ontario communities will opt-out is as yet unknown, though many of the emerging cannabis industry’s private retailers anticipate the prospect of employment ultimately will win the debate in job-starved parts of the province.
Yet apart from knowing Ontario’s new Conservative government is upending its Liberal predecessor’s plan for a gradual rollout of publicly-own stores — and apart from knowing the switch to private retail comes with a new launch date of April 1 — many municipal officials have a raft of questions about their role in permitting and regulating the retail weed landscape.