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Mapleton plans public meeting on cannabis legalization issues

by Patrick Raftis

MAPLETON - Should retail marijuana sales be allowed in the township? Citizens here can have their say on local legalization issues at a public meeting on Nov. 22.

Council set the date for the meeting, which will run from 7 to 9pm at the PMD arena, at the Oct. 30 meeting, after receiving a staff report from CAO Manny Baron.

“The main decision that council needs to make is whether or not to allow retail stories,” said Baron.

Recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada on Oct. 17. In Ontario, legal sales are currently allowed only through the government’s online cannabis store. However physical retail outlets can be opened by licensed operators in April.

Baron said he anticipates some handouts will be distributed and a “general overview of what the cannabis industry looks like” will be provided at the public meeting.

“Our goal is to 100 per cent listen to what the attendees say and, I guess, help educate council on making appropriate decisions related to retail stores,” said Baron.

He explained other issues surrounding legalization may be addressed at the meeting, but “the main decision is coming fairly quickly and council does not have a lot of time to make that decision.”

The province is requiring municipalities to decide by Jan. 22 if they will allow retail sales within their borders. However Baron noted in his report “if a municipality opts out, they will have a second opportunity to opt back in at a later date.”

Councillor Lori Woodham asked if any clarification was provided on the question of whether municipalities opting out of retail sales will receive any of the funding designated to compensate for costs of implementing the new legislation.

Baron’s report indicates the province is promising a minimum of $10,000 to each municipality to help with any costs incurred.

“You can read that two different ways,” Baron told council. “The way I read it is we will, regardless, receive revenue because even if we don’t open a store, the municipality as a whole would have to spend some money on bylaw enforcement as well as policing. So the way I read the comments and provincial guidelines is, we will receive it.”

Councillor Michael Martin, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Neil Driscoll, asked how the municipality would deal with the “perceived contradiction” of marijuana smoking being legal “in many public spaces” but not allowed within specified distances of public facilities and some public spaces, such as playgrounds.

“The province is saying you can smoke marijuana anywhere you can smoke a cigarette or vape,” replied Baron. “However, and this is probably part of the discussion at the open house, do we even take it a step further and, any municipality-owned property, do we allow smoking on it, marijuana?”

Baron pointed out the municipality could technically ban smoking on municipal roadways.

“If you look at Halifax, they banned smoking and marijuana smoke essentially in the entire city,” he noted.

“All those rules, then you have to enforce them. Who enforces all that?” wondered councillor Marlene Ottens. “What are you going to do at the arena if someone is smoking tobacco or marijuana in the arena, or outside of it, whether they’re nine metres (away) are not? Are you going to call the police every time? The more rules the more enforcement and I’m not sure how you get around that in a small town that doesn’t have its own police force.”

Noting the township, in August, declined a proposal from a trucking company to purchase land in the Drayton Industrial Park for a cannabis processing plant, Martin asked if the meeting would provide an opportunity to get public input on commercial/industrial operations.

“I think that’s a different conversation … There’s more unknowns,” said Baron.  “But we could certainly bring it up.”

November 9, 2018


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