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New Tecumseth opts in to permitting cannabis retail stores

Posted January 15, 2019

New Tecumseth councillors were 6-4 in a recorded vote approving the Town as a willing host for future cannabis retail stores. There is no opting out now.

Mayor Rick Milne, Deputy Mayor Richard Norcross, and ward councillors Michael Beattie, Stephanie MacLellan, Shira Harrison McIntyre, and Alan Lacey voted in favour. Councillors Wayne Noye, Paul Foster, Fran Sainsbury, and Donna Jebb, against.

Retail outlets are not expected to pop up in New Tecumseth until the provincial government expands beyond the inaugural round of 25 licenses spread across five regions in Ontario. And when they do, last night's motion includes creating a 300 metre buffer from any school, up from the 150 metres the Province set in its policy.

Council's decision included results of a public survey that featured over 1,000 replies concluding with an approximate 70/30 split in favour.

But Ward 3 councillor Paul Foster questioned the merits of the survey because there were no controls as to who took part in it as it was available to anyone that followed the online link.

"So I just like to understand, is it fair to suggest that we have no idea of the age of the people, we have no idea of the location of where they came from, we have no idea whether this was accessed through multiple devices, whether you could use a similar device with the same IP address on a daily basis to access that survey," said Mr. Foster. "The reason why I ask the question is I'm trying to determine whether or not that survey really has any merits of any significance that we should use in our deliberations about this opt in or opt out."

Planning Director Bruce Hoppe did confirm the survey was "unscientific" and meant to "arm council with more information."

So then it’s fair to say that referencing this as an overwhelmingly majority of people support this is a 100 per cent incorrect statement," added Mr. Foster,  "it’s a wild assumption at best."

Ward 4 councillor Fran Sainsbury also paid little heed to the survey results, suggesting it was a small sample size out of population of 35,000.

"I have a real concern that we’re catering to a handful that wish to use this, which is fine, that’s their choice," said Ms. Sainsbury. "People who responded may already be smokers."

Nottawasaga OPP inspector Steve Clegg was on hand to answer policing questions, and told councillors the community already had a blackmarket for marijuana.

"I can’t say for sure if a store front operation will eliminate the blackmarket, there’s a lot of variables at play here when it comes to pricing and the quality of product," said Inspector Clegg. "What I personally feel more assured about is the fact the source of the marijuana product in the store front operation is 100 per cent controlled through Health Canada from a regulatory production facility, so the quality product being sold through these store front operations would be good quality products and we wouldn’t have to worry about the nonsense of bad chemicals and things like that in blackmarket type products."

Ward 3 councillor Michael Beattie, speaking in favour of opting in, said the results of the public input were conclusive.

"What we heard in the survey is to me a really clear indication the direction where the people want to go," said Mr. Beattie. "This is not 1919. This is 2019, it’s a legal product that’s heavily regulated by the provincial government, and it’s legally allowed to be purchased and consumed."

That was echoed by Ward 6 councillor Stephanie MacLellan who took issue with questions about the survey results.

"I’d like to actually say thank you to all the people who did fill out the survey," said Ms. MacLellan. "I find part of my role as a councillor is to encourage public participation and having councillors sit up here and rip this survey to shreds is not going to do that. I guess I see it more as people are interested, and 1,000 people is still a lot to get on this survey. Ido have faith in the alcohol and gaming commission that they will place these stores properly. I think our blackmarket may not increase but it may not go away if we don’t have these stores here."

Ward 7 councillor Shira Harrison McIntyre pointed out the cannabis stores will also sell Cannabidiol or CBD, which is "a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC."

"I’d also like to point out there are people that will be purchasing CBD and other products for things like cancer treatment, anxiety depression all sorts of medical reasons," said Ms. Harrison McIntyre, "and I don’t think there’s any reason that they have to leave our community in order to purchase those products."


All stories, unless otherwise noted,
by Tony Veltri