Published Nov. 16 2017
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says the impending legalization of marijuana will have ramifications for the province’s local governments.
Marijuana is set to become legal in Canada on July 1 2018 and the federal government has put provincial governments in charge of the retail of cannabis.
The Ontario government will operate a series of standalone cannabis stores which will function in a manner similar to the LCBO. There will be 40 at first and at this point in time the government has identified 14 cities where stores will be located including Barrie Brampton Hamilton Kingston Kitchener London Mississauga Ottawa Sault Ste. Marie Sudbury Thunder Bay Toronto Vaughan and Windsor. According to the province it is consulting with municpalities to determine where the rest will be located.
There are to be 150 marijuana stores by 2020.
“One of our key concerns has been local influence on where retail outlets are located in our communities” said AMO president Lynn Dollin in a press release. “Under a provincial Crown agency the rollout of storefronts must begin with willing municipalities and a municipal voice on where the drug is sold to ensure community safety.”
An AMO taskforce has identified a number of potential implications for municipalities.
These include concerns around public safety including “additional local law enforcement resources will be needed to help police do their jobs in the new legalized regime” and “training for drug recognition and support to acquire roadside testing tools once approved” a release reads.
There may also be implications for municipal planning and zoning bylaws.
“Municipal planning and zoning may be impacted by the legalization of marijuana depending on the sales and distribution model” the release reads. “Municipalities need to have a say where these operations are located for the well being of our communities. This can help to support local economic development while limiting impacts to neighbors and the community. Examples of what happens when municipalities do not have adequate tools to regulate businesses have been seen over the past year with cannabis retail outlets opening in contravention of current law.”
AMO is also requesting that some tax revenue from marijuana sales be allotted to municipalities.
On the enforcement front for the time being police continue to enforce marijuana laws as they have existed.
“The role of the OPP is to enforce the law faithfully and equally and do so until there are any changes in the current laws” Haliburton Highlands OPP Const. Dianna Dauphinee wrote in an email to the paper. “The laws have not changed and we must await the new legislation to determine how it will impact policing. This in turn will guide and direct the required training that is needed.
The OPP currently utilizes drug recognition evaluators if they believe that an operator of a motor vehicle is impaired by drug and will continue to do so.”