Huron East defers on cannabis outlets - Jan. 3, 2019
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron East Council has decided to wait and see on retail cannabis locations, deciding not to exercise its right to opt out of permitting cannabis retail locations in the municipality.
Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight spoke to the issue at council’s final meeting of 2018, presenting some facts that would make Huron East’s downtown cores unique, given the circumstances.
He said, for example, that retail cannabis locations will not be permitted to open within 150 metres of a school. With St. James Catholic School just off of the main street, those regulations would “sterilize” the vast majority of Seaforth’s downtown core, Knight said.
There could be opportunity south of town hall on Seaforth’s main street, but there are limited retail buildings available, so he felt Seaforth wouldn’t be conducive to a retail outlet.
“Council should acknowledge both that recreation cannabis has been legalized and that the potential retail locations are somewhat limited with respect to the impact of St. James School on the Seaforth commercial core,” Knight said in his report to council. “Given the limited potential, it is questionable if the opting out provisions would be necessary even if council decided to prohibit retail locations.”
Other downtowns in Huron East, however, could host retail outlets, such as Brussels or Vanastra. However, due to the limited number of outlets being rolled out and the method by which those locations will be chosen, Mayor Bernie MacLellan felt Huron East didn’t stand much of a chance of landing an outlet.
The outlets, he said, will be chosen by a lottery system and, at least for the time being, will be limited to population centres with at least 50,000 residents, which would rule Huron East out.
Knight said that if council does want to eventually opt out of cannabis outlets, it must do so by the provincial deadline of Jan. 22, 2019 at midnight.
He said that regardless of council’s decision, the municipality will receive a one-time payout from the federal government of $10,000, which will be split evenly between Huron East and Huron County, its upper-tier government. Opting out, however, would likely jeopardize any further benefits from the legalization of marijuana.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan acknowledged Seaforth’s position in regards to being home to an outlet, but said that after travelling extensively in the United States, he wondered how many tax dollars Huron East might be leaving on the table if council opts out.
He said that when he would try to buy a case of beer in a “dry county” in the United States, and was told to travel a few miles down the road to where beer is available, he has always wondered what that community is missing.
“You wonder how much in tax dollars are lost because of that decision,” he said.
Council passed the motion to not exercise its right to opt out, with the ability to revisit the issue before the Jan. 22, 2019 deadline.