A major municipal issue that I followed through the last election was whether municipalities would allow private marijuana vendors within their jurisdictions, now, changes by the Ford government seem to have made this a moot point.
Due to concerns over the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS)’s ability to supply vendors, the government has limited the number of private marijuana vendors in the province of Ontario to just 25.
That’s right, 25; for a province of 13 million people spread across over 1 million sq. km.
To distribute these 25 licensed stores across the province, the government has decided to create a lottery system. Entrepreneurs can apply to be entered into this lottery system, but there is a catch. The government has divided the province into different regions, and the region we fall into, the Eastern Region, will only get five licensed vendors. Additionally, a vendor must be in a municipality with more than 50,000 people. Seeing as neither Cornwall, nor the surrounding townships meet that 50,000 threshold, those five licensed vendors will either be in Ottawa or Kingston.
For a party and a government that says they’re “open for business” they seem to have really throttled this business opportunity. Instead of restricting growth in this new business sector, why not grow the supply side?
Marijuana retail can prove to be a new business sector for municipalities, boosting direct tax revenue through property taxes and boosting tourism.
Additionally, if supply is the problem, then why not build a production industry to meet that demand?
There are 81 licensed marijuana producers in the province of Ontario that supply the OCS, including Akwesasne’s own Seven Leaf Med. Since the Ford government is so anti-regulation, why not deregulate this industry to a point where it is easier for producers to get more established. Let the free market determine what demand the industry can bare. I think we are really missing out on an opportunity right now as a province for some increased economic growth and tax revenue.
During the 2018 municipal election, I asked candidates for council in Cornwall and the surrounding municipalities if they were in favour of private marijuana vendors. At the time, the provincial government made this seem like an urgent issue. The plan then was that municipalities had to either “opt-in” or “opt-out” and I was a strong advocate for all local municipalities to opt-in.
Now however, it seems that even taking a vote on private marijuana vendors is a waste of time for municipal councils.
South Stormont is the only municipal council that has already voted on the matter and they chose to opt-in. I wonder if their vote would have been the same if they had known that their chances of getting even a single vendor in their municipality was so close to zero.
As it stands now, municipalities still have until Jan. 22 to either opt-in or out. Cornwall City Council next meets on Jan. 14, will see how they vote on this issue, if they choose to vote on it at all.
What do you think readers? Should the province deregulate the number of vendors they are allowing? Would you want a marijuana vendor in every town? Email me your Letter to the Editor at email@example.com