Minto cannabis information meeting Jan. 8

MINTO – Town council has scheduled a public meeting for Jan. 8 to collect citizen input on whether to allow retail cannabis sales in Minto.

Council plans to make a decision on the issue at its Jan. 22 meeting, the same date as a provincially-imposed deadline for the decision.

The timetable was approved at the Dec. 18 council meeting, despite the fact a report presented at the meeting indicated a recent provincial decision means the town will not even be eligible to host a pot shop in the first round of outlets to be allowed next spring.

“They’ve decided now, as of last Thursday, to cap number of stores opening in April at 25,” clerk’s assistant Quinn Foerter told council.

“That will be seven in southwestern Ontario and in order to apply under the lottery you have to have a population of 50,000 or more so we won’t get one anyway.”

“You still have to opt in or opt out,” said acting CAO Chris Harrow.

“Oh yeah, you still have to do it,” agreed Mayor George Bridge.

Foerter also clarified the confusing situation around the permanence of any municipal decisions made by the Jan. 22 deadline.

“If you opt in, you’re in for good. If you opt out you will be given a chance to opt in again later but you won’t receive any of the per household funding (from the provincial share of cannabis revenues) to help with enforcement,” she explained.

All municipal governments are set to receive $10,000 to help with the transition to legal cannabis, $5,000 as soon as the government can arrange it, and $5,000 in 2019. Those that allow retail locations will then get additional funding on a per household basis.

Most municipalities opting out so far

Foerter told council that as of Dec. 18, the Town of Erin and Township of Centre Wellington had opted out of cannabis sales. No other Wellington County municipality had made a decision, but the City of Guelph has opted in. Across the province she said, of the 27 municipalities to have made a decision, only nine have opted in.

“That’s about 33 per cent,” she pointed out.

Municipalities are required to send a notice to the province stating a resolution has been passed, through which it has chosen to opt-out of housing cannabis retail facilities on or before midnight on Jan. 22. If no notice is given, municipalities automatically opt-in.

The Jan. 8 public meeting will be held at the Harriston Community Complex on Jan. 8 at 5:30pm. The report states Wellington OPP Inspector Scott Lawson, or another OPP representative, will also be on hand for feedback.

Foerter told council the public input on cannabis sales would also be gathered through the town’s new Bang the Table online citizen engagement forum.

A further report will come forward at the Jan. 22 meeting, at which a decision on opting in or out of retail locations will be made.

In the report, Foerter noted an opted-in municipality cannot use regulations under the Planning Act, including zoning, interim control and site plan approval mechanisms, to specifically limit where cannabis retail operations can locate.

“This means that these sections of the act cannot be used to prevent the sale of cannabis from a retail operation, but the town may apply the same requirements as it would for any retail operation as long as it does not distinguish between cannabis or any other retail product,” the report states.

Another looming issue is a municipality’s ability to restrict public areas where recreational cannabis can be used.

“This is something the town should consider early next year, in conjunction with Wellington County and the Ontario Provincial Police, to ensure consistency throughout the county,” the report states.

“It would require another report, and the passing of a bylaw in open council, as well as additional enforcement efforts through both the bylaw department, and the OPP.”

Council received the report and directed staff to schedule a public meeting and to gather further input  via the Bang the Table website.