Pubdate: Thu, 30 Nov 2017
Source: Niagara Falls Review, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Niagara Falls Review
Author: Ray Spiteri
Page: A1


Province grants cannabis store to Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls will receive at least one government-run pot shop when
recreational marijuana becomes legal next July.

On Tuesday night, Coun. Wayne Thomson read a letter from Ontario
Ministry of Finance sent to the city and dated Nov. 28 that the
popular tourist destination has been identified "for the location of
at least one initial cannabis retail store by July 2018."

Thomson, along with Mayor Jim Diodati, voiced their disappointment
when the Honeymoon Capital wasn't among the first 14 cities announced
earlier this month by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to host a
legal pot shop next July.

The LCBO, which will run new marijuana stores through a subsidiary,
announced Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston, Kitchener, London,
Mississauga, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto,
Vaughan, and Windsor in the first wave.

Thomson and Diodati said they were surprised Niagara Falls, which
welcomes an estimated 14 million visitors annually, wasn't among the
first communities announced.

Thomson told the Niagara Falls Review earlier this month he planned on
bringing forward a motion at Tuesday's council meeting calling on the
province to set up a pot shop in the community.

Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Review on Nov. 10 the first 14
municipalities announced don't make up the full list of where the
first 40 stores are going to be.

When asked if she anticipated Niagara Falls to be one of them, Wynne
said: "I don't know. (The LCBO is) making these decisions based on the
business metrics that they use to locate stores around the province."

The province previously announced that as many as 40 stores would open
next year, with 40 more added a year later.

The province plans to set up approximately 150 standalone cannibas
stores by 2020.

The province said consumers will also be able to access cannabis
through an online retail website.

Thomson said he was surprised, but pleased, to read Sousa's

Mayor Jim Diodati joked the province heard about Thomson's planned
resolution, and "they cut him off at the pass."

"They (announced) it before you had a chance to pass your resolution,"
said Diodati before crediting Thomson for his public push on behalf of
Niagara Falls.

"Good job on that, councillor." Thomson, who is also chairman of
Niagara Falls Tourism, has said having a legal recreational marijuana
store in Niagara Falls would increase its visitation "substantially,
create all kinds of jobs, and really be an economic opportunity for

"You look at what's happened in the States where it's been legalized,
the influx (of visitors) and the tourism and the business opportunity
is unbelievable," he said.

"Here we have a border community which doesn't have this opportunity
across the border (in Niagara Falls, N.Y.). They'd be flooding over
here, and business wise, this would be so good for the province, so
good for the city, jobs and opportunities and business promotion and
marketing as a result of that would be unbelievable."

Thomson said he talked about the issue during a recent function in
Niagara Falls attended by Wynne, Minister of Finance Charles Sousa,
and the tourism minister.

Thomson said he has never smoked marijuana, but shared his thoughts
about how having a government-run pot shop in the city would
"stimulate" economic development and tourism.

"They knew what the objective was. All we did was push them in the
area of economic development and business sense."

Diodati said Queen's Park politicians and their staffs have their
"finger on the pulse" of public opinion at all times, and were "well
aware of our comments and our feelings" about Niagara Falls hosting a
government-run pot shop.

"I'm sure it created a bit of a conversation because a business model
logic would dictate that you're going to want to open up the business
where you're going to have the most opportunity for success," he said.

"Niagara Falls is one of those places. We've got the critical mass,
we've got some of the busiest liquor stores in the province, it would
stand to reason that they're going to be equally as successful by
opening up these other businesses in Niagara Falls."

Sousa has wrote municipal leaders and said Ontario's store rollout
aims to achieve the right geographic distribution across the province
to reduce the number of illegal marijuana dispensaries that have
opened since the federal government announced it will legalize marijuana.

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

Thomson said he supports the idea of not locating such stores near
sensitive uses, such as schools.

"I think they've been very careful because this is a sensitive

At the same time, Thomson said people shouldn't "fool"

"Don't act like this doesn't exist today. It's on the streets today.
What we're doing is putting in controls to put the (illegal) people
out of business, and that's a smart idea."

Diodati said he believes the store/s will be in the tourist

Ken Todd, the city's chief administrative officer, said the city also
received a letter from the finance staff outlining the process.

"We haven't got a date picked yet, but we're going to meeting with
them at the staff level before the Christmas break. There's a whole
bunch of parametres they want to look at, like a location selection."

Todd said the operation of these outlets will be through a subsidiary
of the LCBO.

"The actual retail distribution of the cannabis shops will not be in
an LCBO, they will be standalone businesses," he said, adding a
location has not been selected yet in Niagara Falls.

"I think what they're doing is they're looking for a current retail
location where they can go in and set up. I don't think they're
looking for necessarily a brand new build because they couldn't get up
and running by that time."
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MAP posted-by: Matt