Ontario Cities Need to Shape Their Own Destiny in the Cannabis Conversation

Article by Breanna Roycroft, Lift

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Examples from other jurisdictions show that municipalities need to move now to ensure they have a say in what legalization looks like in the future.

On June 27th, 2016, in the lead up to their annual general meeting, the Board of Director’s for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) called for the creation of a taskforce to “further investigate marijuana legalization and to engage immediately with federal and provincial governments about roles and responsibilities and implementation questions around the pending new marijuana legalized regime.”

Following the AGM August, at which Denver, Colorado’s Marijuana Czar Ashley Kilroy spoke on Denver’s experience with the recent legalization and commercialization of cannabis in the state, local officials voiced concerns that Ontario municipalities and the province were not prepared for the upcoming changes in cannabis laws. Similar sentiments have been expressed at City Hall in Toronto as well – municipalities and the province seem caught up in waiting on the federal government to provide direction before taking any action beyond an environmental scan.

With the prohibition-era laws on their way out, public opinion clearly swinging in favour of legalization, and dispensaries stepping in to meet an existing demand despite the continued illegality of cannabis, there is a clear leadership vacuum in Ontario. Looking to other markets where cannabis has made the transition from black market to main street, one thing becomes clear: leadership at the local level plays a critical role in the success of the initiative. Rather than stall and wait for direction from the federal governments, if municipalities in Ontario truly want a say in the future of cannabis legalization, now is the time to speak up.

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