Article by CBC News
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) needs to reconsider its process for awarding cannabis retail store licences.
According to Bradley, the random lottery process “sounds very fair … but there was no discipline to it.”
The most recent lottery saw 42 applicants awarded the opportunity to apply for a licence to open a cannabis retail store in the province.
Due to the random nature of the lottery, not all Ontario municipalities were awarded equally.
In Windsor, for example, Kirk Anastasiadis was the only successful applicant out of the more than 130 who filed for the chance to set up a legal pot shop in the city.
Bradley said the town of Innisfil — a municipality with a population of roughly 36,000 — “raised a lot of eyebrows,” because three applicants “within eyesight … to each other all on the same street” now have the chance to file for licences.
In contrast, none of the applicants from Sarnia successfuly secured a licence in either the first and second lottery.
“This computer model that we used really wasn’t based on ‘Where’s the most effective and business-like locations,'” said Bradley. “It was simply based on a random choice, which obviously needs some discipline to it.”
According to Bradley, the current system has only served to aid illegal cannabis sellers.
“Just anecdotally talking in the community, people do not want to go on the internet to … give the government their personal information to get cannabis,” he said. “So that leaves people in areas that are shut out with the only option being the illegal market.”
Bradley added the provincial government needs to intervene and re-examine the current system’s fairness.
“I think they need to take a really quick look at this now, because there’s enough examples across the province that says this is not a fair process,” he said. “If cannabis is legal, then I think there should be as much as possible — no different than the LCBO. Equality of access for people.”
Rather than a random lottery, Bradley said the Ontario Progressive Conservative government needs to take a more “business-like” approach, and award licences based on the needs of municipal markets.
“If you were approaching this [like] it’s a business, then I think you need to take a business-like approach and say ‘Where is the marketplace? Where’s the population base?'” said Bradley.
Bradley added he would coordinate retail store licenses “almost like locating a franchise.”
“Look at how many [consumers] you would allow into that marketplace,” he said. “And that’s not happening.”
Disappointment across Windsor-Essex
Bradley isn’t the only Windsor-Essex mayor concerned about the AGCO’s lottery system.
Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald and Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos both expressed disappointment following the results of last week’s second cannabis retail licence draw.
“Because we’re home to the producers, that’s a reason to locate here,” said MacDonald, adding she hoped there would be “a few extenuating circumstances taken into account.”