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Should retail pot shops be allowed in Newmarket?

The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury council is expected to discuss whether to opt out of retail cannabis stores at its first regular meeting of this term on Dec. 18
Jars of cannabis are on display at a privately run retail cannabis shop in Vancouver. Rob Kruyt/Village Media

Do you want to be able to buy marijuana on Main Street or at the mall while doing your weekend shopping?

The Town of Newmarket will be launching an online survey to get your input on whether or not to allow privately run, retail cannabis stores in Newmarket, and is also inviting you to a public information meeting Dec. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Municipal Offices’ council chambers, 395 Mulock Dr. You can view the public notice here.

A formal presentation will be made by Town staff, followed by an opportunity for the public to ask questions.

In Bradford West Gwillimbury, council is expected to discuss whether the town should opt out of retail cannabis stores at its first regular meeting of this term on Dec. 18.

During the 2018 municipal election, Newmarket Mayor John Taylor responded when asked his view on allowing retail pot shops in town, “We have to opt out and take time to figure out what this really means. It’s a complex and far-reaching issue.”

Newmarket Deputy Mayor and Regional Councillor Tom Vegh, when asked a similar question at an election debate, said it would be “reckless” to have retail distribution locally.

“There really is no upside to distribution in Newmarket,” Vegh said. “The social cost outweighs any economic opportunity.”

With the provincial government’s Jan. 22, 2019 cut-off date for municipalities to opt out of having retail cannabis shops in their communities fast approaching, the heat is on local decision-makers to weigh the options, the pros and cons.

If Newmarket opts out of allowing retail cannabis shops here, it can opt in at any point in the future but will lose its portion of the $40 million the government has committed to help municipalities with the implementation costs of recreational cannabis legalization.

Along with the feedback it receives at the public meeting, and the results of an online survey soon to be launched, Newmarket’s new town council will make a decision at its Jan. 7, 2019 council meeting.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Oct. 17, 2018 legalization of recreational cannabis and the regulations released mid-November by Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government regarding retail pot shops:

  • Since Oct. 17, Ontario consumers aged 19 and over have been able to legally purchase a wide variety of cannabis and cannabis-related products through the government-run Ontario Cannabis Store.
  • Store-front retail cannabis sales will be permitted by April 1, 2019, at the earliest.
  • There has been no change to the federal legislation regarding the medical use of cannabis.
  • Right now, you cannot buy cannabis legally from a retail shop in Newmarket.
  • With regard to smoking cannabis in Newmarket, enforcement falls within the jurisdiction of York Region Public Health (for medical use) and York Regional Police (for recreational use). York Region, Public Health, Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes Control Officers enforce the current Smoke Free Ontario Act, 2006 and the Electronic Cigarettes Act 2015. York police enforce the proposed Smoke Free Ontario Act, 2017.
  • Ontario government regulations establish a minimum distance of 150 metres, about 500 feet, between cannabis retail stores and schools, including private and federally funded First Nation schools off-reserve.
  • Retailers will not be permitted to allow anyone under the age of 19 to enter their stores.
  • There are specific instances in which applicants will be denied a licence, including cannabis-related criminal offences. Illegal cannabis retailers who were operating after Oct. 17, 2018 are not eligible for Ontario cannabis sales licences.
  • A prohibition on the issuance of a licence to any individual or organization who has an association with organized crime.
  • Requirement that individuals or entities applying for operator licences demonstrate their tax compliance status to show they are in good standing with the government.
  • A requirement for all private, recreational cannabis retail storefronts to be stand-alone stores only, which includes a location at a mall.
  • Individuals with a store authorization, cannabis retail managers and all retail employees will be required to complete the approved training to ensure that any individual who works in the cannabis retail market is trained in the responsible sale of cannabis.
  • It is anticipated that the government oversight body for the province’s recreational cannabis store system, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, will begin accepting applications Dec. 17, 2018 and private retailing of cannabis will begin April 1, 2019.
  • Private, retail recreational cannabis stores are allowed to open between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. every day of the week. These operating hours are consistent with on-site retail stores for alcohol and will provide retailers with the flexibility to respond to local market conditions and consumer demands.
  • A market concentration limit of 75 stores per operator has been set to prevent a high degree of market consolidation, promote opportunities for small businesses and promote investment in the cannabis retail sector.

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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