Erin decides to permit cannabis retail shops; survey shows public support

ERIN – Following the results of a public survey, council here has reversed course and will now permit cannabis retail stores within the Town of Erin.

In a Nov. 2 meeting, council received a report for information and arrived at the conclusion to opt in to allow pot shops, despite a staff recommendation advising against it.

In January of 2018, municipalities had to decide whether to opt in or opt out of cannabis retail. Once in, municipalities were told they could not back out.

Erin was one of three municipalities in Wellington County at the time that opted out; the others were Centre Wellington and Mapleton.

After receiving multiple inquiries regarding opportunities for cannabis retail, council passed a motion in June directing staff to conduct a public survey to determine residents’ opinions on allowing cannabis stores in the municipality and to report back with a recommendation.

Following a public survey and further examination on the feasibility of allowing cannabis retail within the municipality, staff recommended the town stay away from cannabis retail.

Staff considered a number of factors when making the recommendation to council, the report noted, including the risks of the policy, impact on other policies passed by council – in this case, the impact on the Growth Management Strategy – and staff’s ability to ensure enforcement.

A public survey circulated in July was completed by 277 respondents.

Of those respondents, 70 per cent were strongly or somewhat in support of permitting cannabis retail stores. Approximately 27% of respondents were strongly or somewhat opposed to permitting them, according to the report to council.

The report also stated while survey results are a helpful consideration in the overall staff recommendation, they are not used as a sole indicator in the formation of public policy.

In a Nov. 2 meeting, Erin council decided to allow pot shops, despite a staff recommendation advising against it. Screenshot from Nov. 2 meeting


Although the survey saw a 70% approval rate, town clerk Lisa Campion explained during the meeting that Erin’s population is about 12,000 residents and so a limited sample size of 277 respondents may not produce entirely accurate results.

Councillor Michael Robbins said 277 respondents is statistically a significant number.

“I think the 277 is significant and is something – the people have spoken,” Robbins said, adding “70 per cent acceptance is clear to me.”

Robbins pointed out that not only did a majority of respondents say they supported cannabis retail, but as the survey revealed, 81 per cent said the main reason for not purchasing cannabis legally was because there was no retail outlet nearby.

“I think it’s important that we listen to what they say,” he added.

Councillor John Brennan echoed Robbins’ statement, adding, “we undertook this to find out what our citizens wanted, and I think they’ve told us, and I’m satisfied that the 277 … in support is a clear signifier this is something our residents want.”

Councillor Rob Smith said the town chose not to get on board  initially to see how things played out.

“I haven’t seen any great problems; I haven’t seen many big issues and that was one of the main points (why) we didn’t opt in,” he explained.

“I think this is the time to go for it and opt in.”

Following suit, Mayor Allan Alls voiced his support for the motion to opt in for allowing cannabis retail.

Passed in a unanimous vote, the motion also directs staff to notify the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) of council’s decision.