Aspiring Scugog pot pedlars came up short in the latest round of Ontario’s cannabis retail store lottery, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Various individuals and numbered companies filed a total of 28 expressions of interest for 1874 Scugog St. in Port Perry, where The Cannabis Connoisseur is located. Elsewhere, nine applications were submitted for a marijuana retail store at 239 Queen St. Another expression was sent to the province on behalf on 218 Queen St.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) held the province’s second cannabis retail store lottery on Aug. 20, selecting 42 winners. Of those, six were allocated for the GTA, which includes Durham Region. Ontario announced the second lottery in early July.
Each of the winners had until Aug. 28 to apply for retail operator licences and retail store authorization. From there, the AGCO will carry out an eligibility and licensing review. The province will only licence applicants and authorize stores that meet all legal and regulatory requirements.
Last week’s lottery produced two winners from Oshawa — separate applications entered for an address at 20 Simcoe St. S. in downtown Oshawa — bringing the total number of potential pot stores for that city to three, after the first lottery round led to Tokyo Smoke Oshawa opening in June.
With 28 applications filed with the province for The Cannabis Connoisseur, Duane Markle figured he had a decent shot at seeing his company’s name called in the lottery. But even more frustrating than coming up short, he said, is the fact that Oshawa will potentially receive a third store which will leave other areas of Durham underserviced.
“I’ve gone through the process and I’m extremely disappointed with the process. The fairness of it is ridiculous,” said Markle. “It’s not fair, it’s just not right.”
He suggested the lottery process should be tweaked to provide a better distribution of the retail stores, instead of just a random lottery for vast regions of the province.
“It’s not fair to legalize (marijuana) and then not give people access to it,” said Markle. “The entire region is being served by Oshawa or Toronto.”
He said that “dozens” of people come into his Scugog Street every day, asking if The Cannabis Connoisseur is a dispensary. A large number of those people, said Markle, are 55 or older and looking to purchase pot for medical relief.
“People are disappointed, quite a few people are extremely disappointed,” said Markle, who also participated in the first lottery. “It’s kind of insane the way they’re doing it. It doesn’t feel like a lottery at all.”
There were 838 entries in the GTA region, including other applications from Bowmanville, Newcastle and Uxbridge, where expressions of interested were submitted for 2B Wellwood Dr., 29 Toronto St. S. (Suite 202) and 2 Douglas Rd., Unit A40.
The other winners in the GTA were located in Burlington, Aurora and Stouffville.
On the same day the province announced the lottery winners, Durham MPP Lindsey Park’s office sent out a press release trumpeting funding for municipalities earmarked to “combat the illegal cannabis market and keep our communities safe.”
In last week’s Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund (OCLIF) announcement, Scugog received $5,668, bringing its total to $30,390, said Park’s office. In total, Scugog, Clarington and Oshawa — which make up Park’s riding — have received $372,337 in OCLIF money.
According to the Durham MPP’s office, “municipalities must use their OCLIF funding to address the implementation costs that directly relate to the legalization of recreational cannabis,” ranging from increased enforcement (such as police, public health and bylaw enforcement, court administration and litigation), increased response to public inquiries, more paramedic or fire services, or bylaw and policy development.
In Scugog, said spokesperson Lori Bowers, “the funds are being set aside as we determine their best use and evaluate any related cost implications.”
Some considerations for the funds, continued Bowers, include increased response to public inquiries and complaints; increased enforcement (consumption in prohibited areas, increased presence at Scugog events on township properties); bylaw and policy development; and new or updated signage required for all municipal properties.
Scugog councillors voted unanimously in favour of allowing storefront pot shops in the township during a January meeting. A survey carried out by the township saw a clear majority — just over 67 per cent — support cannabis retail stores within Scugog. The bulk of those who participated in the poll, almost 64 per cent, also stated they would favour Scugog expanding regulations over and above the provincial guidelines that prohibit pot shops within 150 metres of schools.
A total of 621 people took part in the survey.
According to a staff report included in the Jan. 21 council agenda, a vast swath of downtown Port Perry would be eligible for pot shops under provincial policies. However, a proposed tweak by Scugog that would see stores prohibited near parks, community and recreation areas, and the library, would seriously curtail options to just a few pockets in Port Perry.