Highlands East council. /SUE TIFFIN Staff

Highlands East first to allow retail marijuana stores

By Sue Tiffin

Published Dec. 11 2018

Highlands East last week became the first municipality in the county to opt-in to allowing cannabis retail stores within their municipality.

Recreational cannabis was legalized across Canada in October and in Ontario access to marijuana has been made available by mail only through a government-run online retail website.

The provincial government plans to roll out a private recreational cannabis retail store option which can be in place as of April 1 2019.

Municipalities and townships have until Jan. 22 to opt out of allowing marijuana stores within their boundaries.

The province has committed to providing $40 million in funding over the next two years to help municipalities with implementation costs of legalizing recreational cannabis according to Robyn

Rogers Highlands East clerk.

The first $15 million would be broken down into $5000 increments based on a per household basis to each municipality to assist with the planning of legalization activities.

The second $15 million payment will be distributed to municipalities who have opted in or out with those who have opted in receiving at least $5000 to support initial costs related to hosting retail stores and those who have opted out receiving the basic amount of $5000.

“The final payment of $10 million will be prioritized and distributed to those municipalities which have opted in assisting with unforeseen circumstances related to the legalization of recreational cannabis” said Rogers in her report.

She said the province will also provide 50 per cent of surplus funds if the province’s portion of the federal excise duty exceeds $100 million over the first two years of recreational cannabis being legalized.

“The lower tier and upper tier municipality’s calculation will be a 50/50 split with the calculation being on household numbers divided between the lower and upper tier” she wrote.

Funding is intended to help with specific costs that include increased police public health and bylaw enforcement increase to public inquiries paramedic services fire services and bylaw and policy development.

“What’s before us right now is whether or not we want a retail store in our municipality or not” said Shannon Hunter CAO/Treasurer. “It has nothing to do with whether cannabis is legalized or not.”

Councillor Cam McKenzie requested a recorded vote and was the sole no vote with other councillors and Mayor Dave Burton voting yes.

As reported last week the health unit has discussed considerations regarding marijuana retail stores – including distance between shops and sensitive locations that include schools – with county council. The Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission will regulate licences for retail operations.