‘Here we go again’: Centre Wellington defers retail cannabis decision
November 16, 2023 By Local Journalism Initiative
By Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
CENTRE WELLINGTON — Residents are asking their local government to “get with the times,” after council voted to defer its decision to permit retail cannabis in Centre Wellington … again.
While the decision was far from unanimous, council chose to forward its decision on retail cannabis to the Economic Advisory Committee for further deliberation following a long discussion about the pros and cons of bringing the industry to Centre Wellington during a committee of the whole Tuesday evening.
The township originally exercised its right to opt out of allowing retail cannabis after legalization in 2018 but directed staff to prepare a report to re-examine this decision in light of a delegation by a local resident and county councillor in May.
However, some residents who attended the meeting felt council was simply prolonging a decision they already had the information to make.
“The facts are, people want it and it’s a safe product,” said John Mifsud, a Fergus resident who wants to open a cannabis shop. “I think it’s ridiculous we have to punt the decision down to the economic committee for answers we already have.”
County Coun. Diane Ballantyne, who also attended the meeting, said while she’s happy the decision didn’t come down to a no-vote, she’s disappointed that the decision is being delayed.
“I’m optimistic that further education and discussion with the councillors that we have in the community will be able to help them better understand that stopping a legal substance that’s regulated by the government because of comments regarding whether it’s a successful business practice is a very paternalistic view that flies in the face of capitalism,” said Ballantyne, following the decision.
Leading those leaning towards voting against cannabis, self-proclaimed “recreational pot-smoker,” Coun. Denis Craddock said while he isn’t against recreational cannabis, he doesn’t believe the retail cannabis is a good business opportunity for residents due to market “oversaturation.”
“Personally, I think it’s kind of unique of us…to be one of the few (municipalities) that don’t have pot shops available,” said Craddock. “Not that I’m against recreational pot but I can easily have same-day delivery and that’s an option for any resident here.”
But Coun. Bronwynne Wilton, one of two councillors who voted against the deferral, said she would have voted yes on behalf of 75 per cent of the 900 residents surveyed on the issue.
Of 414 lower or single-tier municipalities, there are 353 municipalities who have opted-in to retail cannabis and 15, including Erin, that reversed an initial decision.
A resolution to opt-in is final and can not be reversed. Municipalities become a commenting agency on applications but are unable to create a larger buffer zone around schools, currently 150 metres.
The decision will go to the Economic Advisory Committee for further deliberation before it returns to council for a permanent decision.
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