Point Edward says no to retail cannabis

Ontario municipalities have until Jan. 22 to decide whether they will permit retail cannabis stores within their boundaries. Canadian Press

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Point Edward has joined Sarnia’s other next-door neighbours in deciding to not allow marijuana retail stores to set up shop within its boundaries.

Mayor Bev Hand said Point Edward council voted 3-2 Tuesday to keep cannabis stores out of the village, at least for now.

Councils in St. Clair Township and Plympton-Wyoming, the two other Lambton County municipalities bordering Sarnia, also voted against allowing retail marijuana business, although the odds were slim licences would be approved in those smaller communities any time soon.

Sarnia council voted earlier to allow retail cannabis shops and the province was expected to issue its first 25 retail licences following a lottery Friday. Those stores are expected to open in April.

Up to seven licences are expected to be issued for a west region that stretches from Windsor to Owen Sound and Niagara, and includes Sarnia and Lambton County.

“We all struggled with it,” Hand said about the decision village councillors faced.

“I was waffling back and forth, but in the end I’m satisfied with how I decided to go.”

Hand said she voted against allowing cannabis retail stores in the village.

“We’re unhappy with the process, and not having control,” she said.

The province is setting rules on hours of operation and where retail marijuana sellers can set up shop.

Ontario also wasn’t expecting to issue licences in the early round in communities with populations under 50,000, so a store wasn’t coming soon to Point Edward, a village of 2,000 residents, Hand noted.

She said the “crazy process” the province created for municipalities requires them to officially opt out of allow retail cannabis stores or they would automatically be allowed in those communities.

“Once you’re in, you can’t get out,” Hand said.

“But if you’re out, we can get in later.”

Municipalities opting out by Jan. 22 will be allowed to opt back in, according to Ontario’s rules.

“Now we can sit back and watch the process, and see how it goes in other communities,” Hand said.

“Maybe down the road, we could make a different decision.”

She added, “We’re not saying, ‘you can’t buy cannabis’ because you can buy it online, or you can go to Sarnia” if the village’s neighbour ends up with a retail outlet.

Currently, legal marijuana sales in Ontario are limited to the online Ontario Cannabis Store.

pmorden@postmedia.com

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