Collingwood’s pot problem

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Two months from now, Canada’s federal government will make marijuana legal. Laws will allow it to be sold in private stores, smoked, eaten and even grown in your home. There will be retail stores and online sales. And the next council will have to deal with it.

But before then, our council should have discussed it and given the public some inkling as to what is planned here. Should have held public debate about where it could be sold – offered some suggestions for changes to our planning bylaws and Official Plan. Should have brought in someone from the police to publicly explain what policies about public safety will be in place for enforcement and control. Yet not even a staff report has been made public.

With only a few months to go before legalization, Collingwood has done nothing to prepare itself for what promises to be a significant change and challenge. That’s irresponsible.

The Ontario government will make more details known about its plans this week at the AMO conference in Ottawa – but as Bloomberg noted in a recent story, better-prepared municipalities have already made plans to deal with legalization:

Richmond Hill Mayor David Barrow told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Wednesday his municipality will choose to opt-out of permitting cannabis retail sales.

Did you even know Collingwood could opt out? If not, it’s because our council has been silent on the whole issue of marijuana sales. Is it better for Collingwood to allow sales or opt out? What rules should there be for the location of stores if we stay in? We haven’t heard anything and certainly haven’t had any public meetings where residents could be consulted about how they think it should be done here.

Well, okay, you weren’t consulted over the privatization of our electricity utility, the attempted privatization of our water utility, the privatization of our airport, or the decision by Brian Saunderson and his cabal to block the hospital’s much-needed redevelopment, so there’s little reason to think they would hold a public meeting now. I would expect if they do anything at all, it will be another autocratic dictate decided behind closed doors without any public engagement as they always do with major issues.

Since it’s being left to the next council to deal with this, as your next Deputy Mayor, I will make sure the first thing we do on this issue is hold an open public meeting where residents can come and express their ideas, concerns and suggestions about managing pot sales in town. Only after we’ve engage the public should council decide.

And we should consult with our municipal neighbours to see if they have a strategy, too, that could affect us.

But, yes, I have my own ideas about it. And I expect our next mayor – John Trude, the former police chief – will have something to say about it, too.

I lean towards allowing stores with careful restrictions on location (i.e. not near a school). Having more jobs, more tax-paying businesses always seems like a good way to go and it might be an opportunity for more downtown business.

If our neighbours say yes and we say no, all we’ll do is drive business their way. And that will exacerbate the potential for stoned drivers going back and forth between communities. So I’d rather people stayed in town to do their shopping.

But like I said, I want the public to have its say on the issue first.

Collingwood deserves better. This October you can elect a council concerned about your issues, not simply their own entitlement.

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