Pubdate: Sat, 04 Nov 2017
Source: Niagara Falls Review, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Niagara Falls Review
Author: Allan Benner
Page: A3


Despite the local buzz about legal marijuana, setting up a pot shop in
Niagara was apparently not a high priority for the provincial government.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which will run new marijuana
stores through a subsidiary, announced Friday the first 14 cities
where legal pot shops will be located when recreational marijuana
becomes legal next July.

And Niagara wasn't among them.

Being omitted from the list was a surprise to Niagara Falls Mayor Jim
Diodati - who represents a city where pro-marijuana events are held
annually on April 20, and the Grow Up Cannabis Conference & Expo held
in early October attracted thousands of participants.

"I was surprised because Niagara Falls has millions of tourists, and
that someone would have to leave the community is a little bit
surprising," he said, adding he has yet to learn the province's
rationale or the criteria behind the decision.

"I'd be very interested to know how they came up with the selections
they have, and if there's going to be a secondary announcement of
locations as well," he said. "We've got some of the busiest liquor
stores in the province in Niagara Falls."

The initial list of cities includes Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston,
Kitchener, London, Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury,
Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vaughan and Windsor. The LCBO along with Ontario
Ministry of Finance staff will meet with representatives of those
communities to discuss exact locations for the stores.

The province, however, previously announced that as many as 40 stores
would open next year, with 40 more added a year later. By 2020, the
province plans to set up approximately 150 standalone cannabis stores.

The provincial government also plans to allow consumers to purchase
cannabis products through an online retail website.

New Democratic Party representatives, however, criticized the Liberal
government plan, saying it will not make a dent into organized crime
associated with the sale of the drug.

Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates pointed out that by legalizing
marijuana, the federal government intended to ensure the drug would be
sold safely, while also keeping roads safe and money out of the hands
of criminals.

"How does the idea of not selling legal marijuana in Niagara help
these goals?" Gates asked. "If they want residents to buy it legally
they need to have a place in their community to do so."

NDP Community Safety and Corrections Critic Taras Natyshak echoed
Gates' comment, calling plans for the sale of marijuana "a really
disappointing package" that "leaves Ontarians with many more questions
than answers."

"Forty retail locations cannot possibly serve the demand in a province
the size of Ontario. By failing to locate retail outlets in places
like Niagara, Brantford, Peterborough, Cornwall, Sarnia, and North Bay
and leaving large communities like Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa under
served, it's clear that Kathleen Wynne doesn't get it," Natyshak said.
"By severely restricting retail access to cannabis, her plan won't put
a dent in organized crime or stop the flow of unregulated cannabis to
the market."

Last week, Finance Minister Charles Sousa wrote municipal leaders and
said Ontario's store rollout aims to achieve the right geographic
distribution across the province and to reduce the number of illegal
marijuana dispensaries that have opened since the federal government
announced it will legalize marijuana. "Our proposed approach is to
build on the expertise and back-office capabilities of the LCBO to set
up the Crown Corporation," Sousa said in the letter to municipalities.
"Our priority is to reduce the illegal market by building on our
strengths to create an efficient and secure system for people across
the province." The public will also be notified about the proposed
store locations and will be asked to provide feedback directly to the
LCBO, Sousa said, adding none of the retail stores will be located
near schools. Ontario was the first province to announce a detailed
plan to sell and distribute recreational marijuana and will set the
legal age to purchase it at 19. ! The federal government introduced
legislation in April with a goal of legalizing and regulating the use
of recreational pot by July 1, 2018, but left it up to individual
provinces to design their own distribution system and usage
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MAP posted-by: Matt