Pubdate: Tue, 07 Nov 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Page: A3


Mayor Chris Friel says he isn't surprised that Brantford is not among
the first Ontario cities selected to have legal marijuana stores by
next July.

"All of the cities on the list have had problems with illegal
dispensaries," Friel said Monday.

"I could have told you which cities would be on the list before it was
released by the LCBO," he said,

"The provincial government wants to target those communities and it's
also looking to maximize profit."

Last February, Brantford police twice raided a Cannabis Culture outlet
on Colborne Street West. But the mayor said, unlike some other
municipalities, Brantford hasn't had problems with illegal
dispensaries because the city acted to ban them.

"We took a proactive approach and banned them to avoid

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario last week named the first 14
cities to have legal marijuana stores by next July. The stores will be
in Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London,
Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto,
Vaughan and Windsor.

The province said it will identify more locations for its first batch
of 40 stores but noted that all consumers will be able to access
cannabis through an online retail website.

The province has plans to set up about 150 standalone cannabis stores
by 2020.

When were announced, Taras Natyshak, the Ontario NDP community safety
and corrections critic, criticized the province's cannabis bill,
calling it a "really disappointing package" that left people with more
questions than answers.

"Forty retail locations cannot possibly serve the demand in a province
the size of Ontario," Natyshak said. "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 underserved, it's clear that (Premier) Kathleen
Wynne doesn't get it.

"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."

He said that last week's announcement also makes obvious that the
province has again failed to property consult municipalities.

Friel agreed that the provincial government is moving ahead without
talking with municipalities. And so far it has failed to follow
through on a promised educational program, he said.

"Where is the public consultation and where is the educational

Friel, chair of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario task
force on marijuanalegislation, said the province's plan won't stop the
flow of unregulated pot on the black market.

The mayor has been critical of the province's handling of marijuana
legalization. By handing over the sale and distribution of cannabis to
the LCBO, the province failed to consider opportunities for
entrepreneurs and small business, he said.

The LCBO has said that its representatives, along with staff from the
Ontario Ministry of Finance, will meet with the 14 municipalities in
the coming weeks to determine locations of marijuana stores.

Municipal leaders recently received a note from Finance Minister
Charles Sousa saying the government is trying 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 by next July.

"Our proposed approach is to build on the expertise and back office
capabilities of the LCBO to set up the Crown corporation," Sousa said.
"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."

He said that the public also will be notified about the proposed store
locations and will be asked to provide feedback directly to the LCBO.
None of the retail stores will be located near schools, Sousa said.

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 regulations.

Consumption of legal weed will not be allowed in public spaces or
workplaces and should be confined to private residences, the province
has said.

Ottawa has introduced its marijuana legislation, which contains new
penalties for people that are convicted of illegally selling or
distributing cannabis, including fines of up to $250,000 and/or jail
of up to two years less a day. For every day those people or
businesses continue to sell marijuana after being convicted the first
time, they will be subject to further fines of up to $100,000 and
$500,000, respectively.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the government will clamp
down on illegal distribution channels.

"We are going to work very hard towards that," he said. "We have put
very strict penalties in that regards .... We feel very comfortable
that the regime that we will put in place will be a significant
deterrent for these illegal businesses."

- - With files from Canadian Press
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