Delegates hope Centre Wellington will allow cannabis retail stores in township

ELORA – John Mifsud would like Centre Wellington council to consider allowing cannabis retail stores in the township and on Feb. 13 he made his case.

Accompanied by county councillor Diane Ballantyne, Mifsud told council at its committee of the whole meeting that it’s been five years since cannabis was legalized in Canada and evidence indicates people want it available locally.

There’s much more certainty now about how stores must operate, Mifsud said, and data he collected indicates 82 per cent of Centre Wellington residents think cannabis retail stores should be allowed in the township.

“It will boost the local economy, create jobs, and an excise tax goes to the municipality,” Mifsud said.

In 2018, the council of the day voted to opt out of becoming a host for cannabis stores. But most of its concerns were around the use of cannabis itself and the danger to youth. Five years later, those concerns have been quelled, Mifsud said.

He provided data that indicates 65% of cannabis users are over the age of 25 and that more people are using cannabis for pain management as they age.

He said the nearest stores to Centre Wellington are in Guelph or Arthur, leading to access inequity for local residents.

“People have to travel 17km … to buy it or order from an online store. That can take a week for delivery, and you have to be there to accept the order,” he said.

To a question about stores increasing access for youth, Ballantyne, who is also a high school teacher, said, “Youth already have access to illegal cannabis.” 

She added, “Having legal cannabis (in town) will reduce illegal cannabis use. It’s safer when it comes through regulated channels.”

Mifsud added retail stores must be 150 metres away from schools.

“You can’t bring children in,” he said. “And you can’t see what’s inside from the street.”

Council did not make a decision at the meeting.