Article by Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor
A municipal policy meant to give the city some control over where retail cannabis stores can be located has been created.
Councillors supported the policy this week at a community development committee meeting. It requires approval at an upcoming council meeting.
After voting in January 2019 to temporarily “opt out” of allowing cannabis stores to operate in the city, council voted early this year to opt in.
Mayor Kevin Davis has been working with the province over the past year to help municipalities get more control over where stores can be located and to get a bigger cut of excise taxes collected on the sale of pot.
Although municipalities have no authority to restrict where cannabis retail stores are located, the proposed policy outlines the city’s “preferred restrictions and how they will be communicated to the province,” said a report from Aaron Wallace, Brantford’s director of corporate initiatives and community strategies.
Under the policy, cannabis stores would not be permitted within 150 metres of the Bell Homestead on Tutela Heights Road, Boys and Girls Club on Edge Street, community centres, day nurseries, EarlyON centres, libraries, nursing homes and retirement homes, programmed park facilities, public and private schools and the downtown YMCA.
In addition, the policy recommends retail cannabis stores should have a minimum separation distance of 150 metres from one another to prevent clustering, said Wallace.
Since the decision to allow retail cannabis in Ontario, the province has authorized 75 stores.
“Due to the previously imposed lottery system and the pre-qualification requirements, the roll out of retail cannabis stores in Ontario has been slower than anticipated,” said Wallace. “A majority of the retail sellers who were awarded licences are not yet operational, and those that are operational currently have been in operation for less than a year. As a result there are no reliable measures of impact on economic development, public health or crime as a result of opting in.”
Despite the limited role in determining the location of retail stores, municipalities can use bylaws and policies to advise the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario on proposed cannabis retail applications.
The commission began accepting operator licence applications from prospective retailers on Jan. 6. Store authorizations are expected to be issued beginning in April at an initial rate of about 20 a month.
After it receives a store authorization request, the commission will give the municipality and public 15 days to provide comment. On the commission’s website on Thursday, there were about 60 applications currently undergoing public notice, none from Brantford.
Under the proposed cannabis retail policy, the city’s planning staff will monitor applications for Brantford stores on the commission’s website to ensure they are in compliance. If not, the city staff will notify the commission that the application should be refused.
The commission, however, isn’t required to act on municipal input.
In a separate report to the community development committee, Garry Anderson, Brantford’s manager of property standards and bylaws, addressed the city’s role in enforcing the Cannabis Licence Act and the Cannabis Control Act.
The majority of offences in the Cannabis Licence Act will be regulated and enforced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission.