Storefront vending for recreational purposes April 1
Marijuana retailing for recreational purposes is a go in Norfolk County.
The new Norfolk council approved the measure in an 8-0 vote Tuesday.
The decision means the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will have a roster of licensed stores in place in Norfolk in time for retailing to begin April 1.
Tuesday’s vote is a 180-degree reversal from the former council. On Sept. 25, the former council voted 7-1 to ban retail sales of cannabis locally.
The former council claimed it didn’t have enough detail to make an informed decision. There were also concerns that marijuana retailing might make it more difficult to improve Norfolk’s struggling downtowns.
At Tuesday’s meeting, senior planner Mat Vaughan said much remains unknown about how the province will roll out the new sector. Municipalities have been told, however, that they will have no control over zoning.
“We don’t have the ability to regulate where they go,” Vaughan said. “We have no authority to say where they go and where they don’t.”
At this point, the Ford government intends to leave retailing to licensed operators in the private sector. The Wynne government planned to entrust retailing to the LCBO but that was before the provincial Liberals were reduced to a rump June 8 without standing as an official party.
Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman was the only council member to express reservations over the road ahead.
Huffman would prefer recreational marijuana sold in speciality shops by people knowledgeable about strains and the impact they have on consumers. Huffman isn’t comfortable with the idea of marijuana being sold as just another product at service stations or convenience stores.
Vaughan told council to prepare for updates.
“I expect these things will be a moving target between now and April,” he said. “We’re doing our best to keep up with it.”
Health Canada has licensed five large-scale marijuana producers in Norfolk. Vaughan said the county has heard numerous expressions of interest from potential producers who want to supply the recreational market.
Questions remain over whether marijuana can be grown on farms and sold on-site. Currently, grape growers in Ontario are allowed to sell wine on site with a licence.
As well, county staff have no idea how many licensed outlets the province will approve in Norfolk or whether pains will be taken to ensure they don’t congregate in specific neighbourhoods. Mayor Kristal Chopp said the market should decide these questions.
“We don’t, for example, regulate the number of pizza stores in Port Dover,” Chopp said. “The market will dictate that. From a market perspective, it wouldn’t make sense to open five cannabis stores next to each other.”