Pubdate: Sun, 10 Dec 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Shawn Jeffords
Page: A8


Province backtracks on stand that municipalities cannot opt out of
cannabis stores

The Ontario government appeared to backtrack late Friday on an earlier
statement that municipalities would be unable to opt out of hosting
marijuana stores, raising more questions about the province's
readiness for the expected pot legalization next summer.

The issue came up earlier this week after a city of Richmond Hill
committee unanimously endorsed a statement saying it was not willing
to host one of the retail stores.

If a community is selected to host one of the marijuana shops, it can
delay hosting the store but cannot completely opt out of having it, a
spokesperson for Finance Minister Charles Sousa had told The Canadian
Press earlier on Friday.

"As we roll out the next phase of stores, we will continue to engage
with municipalities on an ongoing basis, including with those
municipalities who may not be ready for a store opening in July 2018,"
Jessica Martin said. "Ultimately, our goal through a controlled model
is to ensure a safe and sensible framework for cannabis

Martin said the government has consulted with municipalities about its
retail model through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

"Municipalities were involved in establishing the initial guidelines
for siting stores, including achieving geographic distribution and
combating illegal dispensaries," she said.

But hours later, Martin said the government had not decided if
municipalities will be able to opt out of hosting a cannabis store.

"The Liquor Control Board of Ontario will be addressing local concerns
as they move forward with the siting process," she said in a statement
Friday night.

In October, Sousa wrote municipal leaders and said Ontario's store
roll out aimed 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 its plan to
legalize recreational marijuana.

The public would also be notified about the proposed store locations
and would be asked to provide feedback directly to the LCBO, he said.

The LCBO hopes to open its first batch of 40 stores by July. The
province plans to set up about 150 standalone cannabis stores by 2020.

Association of Municipalities of Ontario executive director Pat Vanini
said Ontario's plan to retail cannabis has been met with anxiety by
some municipal leaders, who say the process has not provided them with
enough information.

She said some communities do not want to be part of the first wave of
government-run cannabis stores, in part because they still don't know
how they are going to recoup their costs for hosting the retail facilities.

"There is still, amazingly at this point in implementation, a lot of
unknowns," she said. The Richmond Hill community was notified in late
November that the LCBO, which will run the shops through a subsidiary,
was beginning work to site a store in the area. In a report from the
city's municipal staff, councillors were told they would likely only
have a say over the zoning of a proposed location.

Vanini said this isn't the first time municipalities have been forced
to comply with a broad, top-down government policy. "Municipal
governments have been through this willing/unwilling piece before with
wind turbines," she said.

"It took a while for the province to say 'We'll go where there are
willing communities.' "
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt