Just two meetings into the term, Greater Napanee councillors are already facing a decision that will have long last effect-to opt in or not opt in to cannabis retail stores.
Council ultimately decided to defer their decision until after they get input from both the public and local agencies, which they plan to gather at a special meeting. The date and location of that meeting will be set at their next regular meeting, to be held Jan. 8.
Municipalities across Ontario are facing the same decision, as councils debate whether or not they want recreational marijuana dispensaries within their borders or not. They have until Jan. 22 to decide. Should they choose to opt out, they could potentially opt in at a later date, however those that opt in can’t opt out.
Greater Napanee chief administrative officer Ray Callery made a presentation to council on Dec. 18, outlining some of the guidelines that come with either decision.
“There are going to be a host of operational charges that come with production,” Callery told council. “I think that’s what’s important, is you look at production sales and usage. They’re all going to have costs associated with them. They’re all going to have independent costs, one isn’t necessarily related to the others. But the government is proposing right now if we opt out of sales outlets, we may be shut out of the exercised revenue. The revenues we receive right now could be hinged on whether or not we allow sales outlets.”
Should they opt in, they would have very little say as to where the shops could be operated.
“We know from legislation so far that we are not going to be able to regulate the zoning of perspective outlets,” said Callery. “These outlets will be allowed in any commercial zone.”
“If we opt in and there is a permit required for a sales outlet in Napanee, we’ll have 15 days to comment on that,” added Callery, noting there is no maximum number of permits that could be applied for should they vote to opt in.
Deputy mayor Max Kaiser, who supported the successful motion of holding a public meeting on the issue, indicated he’d support opting in, suggesting that they could miss out on potential revenue if they attempted to opt in later.
“The financial impacts in my mind are secondary,” added Kaiser. “I’m not speaking as an advocate of the current Liberal government in the least. But the intention behind this was to provide public safety in the usage (of marijuana).”
Kaiser said people will use the product whether they buy it in town or not, adding that Greater Napanee’s proximity to the Tyendinaga Mohawk reserve put them in a unique situation compared to other municipalities.
“We certainly have access in close proximity in this community to a lot of illegal dispensaries. We don’t know what’s coming out of those dispensaries. Our friends, family, neighbours, whatever, the ones choosing to go there, they’re at risk.”
Mayor Marg Isbester also supported the idea of seeking public input first.
“We’re all concerned about public safety and the lack of information and how it does seem to change on a day to day basis,” said Isbester. “We can jump in tonight and opt in or out, but do we really know enough about what’s going on?”
Town staff was directed to present a list of options for a location and format for the special meeting. A decision on when that meeting will take place will be made on Jan. 8.