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City demands province halt weed store placement

Many unanswered questions, mayor says

The city of Oshawa is calling on the province to back off on announcing locations for future pot shops. (Photo courtesy of Brett Levin/Flickr)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The province of Ontario has added a few more cities to the list of potential future homes for cannabis stores, and Mayor of Oshawa John Henry is not too pleased with that he’s seeing.

During a special meeting of council on Dec. 15 ahead of the presentation of the city’s 2018 operating budget, the mayor delivered a motion that requests the province back off on naming certain cities as potential homes for these LCBO-like, weed selling stores before the municipalities themselves have had the opportunity to consult with their residents and figure out proper zoning for these stores.

“There’s a lot of challenges, there’s a lot of questions, there are no answers coming from the province and they just continue to go down the road and say this is going to happen…With no thought process at all to the enforcement or protection of young people,” Mayor Henry says.

The motion came only three days after the province approved the Ontario Cannabis Act to regulate the lawful use, sale and distribution of marijuana once the federal government legalizes the drug in July of next year.

As the province has previously shared, the sale of the drug will be done through a store system similar to, and managed by, the LCBO. As of now, the province’s booze distributor is in the process of meeting with municipalities that have been identified to be future homes for these cannabis stores.

And while originally Oshawa’s name was left off the list of identified locations when it was released earlier this year, an updated list of locations was released on Dec. 12, and included potential locations in Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa.

According to Mayor Henry, he met with officials form the LCBO, Municipal Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office ahead of the regional council meeting on Dec. 13 to discuss the potential location, along with other questions the city has raised pertaining to the issue of legalization.

“There are a number of outstanding issues of concern to the city regarding the legalization of cannabis that need to be addressed prior to July 1, 2018,” Mayor Henry’s motion reads. “Such as the process to determine appropriate locations for stores, the financial impact on the region and the city, the impact on Durham Regional Police and the city’s bylaw department staff, the impact on social service agencies and health care services.”

Henry says that the province should be the ones to implement a standard set of rules for where these stores can be placed, instead of leaving it up to municipalities to decide, which could result in a patchwork of different bylaws.

“If this is going to go forward, then the province needs to have a set rule in place that is enforceable for the entire province,” he says. “The province really needs to get their act together and create one standard set of rules.”

The Oshawa mayor has also previously raised concerns about the impacts on people’s health and wellbeing who live in apartments with shared ventilation systems, or how people smoking weed in their backyards will impact those around them who may choose not to smoke.

“There are far too many unanswered questions,” said Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki. “We need a lot of these questions that are asked in this motion to be answered before we can move forward.”

However, not all councillors were in agreement with the motion, as Councillor Gail Bates felt that there wasn’t much the city could do in the process.

“I think our hands are tied and that’s the way it is,” she said.

The mayor hopes all of these issues will be addressed ahead of legalization in 2018. He’s also outlined these issues in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Also as part of Henry’s motion, staff have been directed to report back on potential zoning for these stores and a process to consult with the public about the guidelines for future locations of these stores.