Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jan 2018
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Peterborough Examiner
Author: David Goyette
Page: A4


Last month, the government of Ontario passed the Cannabis Act. It
gives the province a monopoly on the sale of recreational marijuana
through an estimated 150 stand alone stores to be run by the new
Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation.

While the new law piggybacks on the federal decision to legalize
recreational marijuana this summer, as well as a new
federal-provincial revenue sharing agreement that will give the
provinces and territories 75 per cent of federal marijuana revues, it
has not been without controversy. In the Ontario Legislature, 27
Progressive Conservatives opposed the law, citing concerns from police
associations that more financial support is required for law
enforcement. While the NDP supported the law, some of its MPPs
expressed concerns about the uncertainty of revenues to be provided to
municipalities, as well as the small number of store fronts (40) to be
opened this summer, which they see as inadequate to put a dent in the
existing black market.

The extent of Ontario's financial support for municipal costs of the
administration and enforcement of recreational marijuana remains an
ongoing concern. I have written in this space in 2016 and 2017 about
the likely financial impact on the City of Peterborough of the federal
government's decision to legalize marijuana this summer.

Late last year, the president of the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario said this: "Property tax payers should not pay for any part of
the federal and provincial legalization framework. For example, one
large police services board in Ontario estimates that it will require
an additional $6.9 million per year to do training, purchase new
roadside equipment for tests and revise new procedures alone. Applying
this number to the first 14 sites selected, municipal policing costs
would be about $10 million ... and that does not include the cost of
any new staffing."

Ontario has made all the right noises about compensating
municipalities, but it holds all the cards and no funding agreement
has been reached.

There are some Ontario municipalities such as Smiths Falls who have
taken full advantage of the liberalization of marijuana laws. Medical
marijuana firm Tweed - since renamed Canopy Growth - has become the
world's largest publicly traded marijuana producer and the town's
largest private-sector employer. Cobourg's former Kraft plant is to be
repurposed as a new medical marijuana facility. A new marijuana
operation is moving forward in Owen Sound. Kapuskasing has entered
into an agreement with a marijuana producer to create a new production
facility that will provide the town with an equity position in the

On the other hand, a number of Ontario municipal leaders have rejected
outright the idea of hosting the first wave of retail stores,
including the mayors of Richmond Hill, Markham and East Gwillimbury.
They cite the need for delay until questions are answered about costs,
public safety, marijuana use in private homes and especially high
rises, and odour complaints. The mayor of Oshawa has called on the
province to defer the provincial naming of store locations.

Peterborough has been named as a community to have a new marijuana
store opening on July 1 or later this summer. However, provincial
representatives have indicated that they will defer locating in
communities who indicate that they do not want a store until
outstanding local issues are settled.

Peterborough city councillors, who have been placidly mum on the
entire marijuana issue, would be wise to consider whether a request
for a delay in the opening of a Peterborough store until outstanding
questions are answered would help give municipalities some leverage
and be the right course for this city.
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MAP posted-by: Matt