Retail cannabis question for Cornwall council Thursday

In this December 2018, file photo, Mayor Bernadette Clement leads a Cornwall city council meeting. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – City council will hold a special meeting Thursday afternoon to tackle the question of whether to allow retail cannabis stores within the city limits.

The city’s three neighbouring municipalities – South Glengarry, South Stormont and South Dundas – have already opted in. The city has until Jan. 22 to make a decision.

If it makes no decision, it will be opted in by default.

A staff report for Thursday’s meeting directs the council to receive the report and make a decision by Jan. 22 but it will be up to councillors to decide by making a motion during the meeting.

As part of Ontario’s retail cannabis plan, Cornwall is getting $56,315 to defray the cost of legalization, such as increased costs for policing. It’s from a pot of $15 million the province is dividing up to municipalities based on the number of households.

A second payment of at least $5,000 from another $15 million envelope will come after Jan. 22 if the city opts in. It would get a flat rate of $5,000 if the municipality says no.

The province is doing a lottery-based system for licences. There are five for Eastern Ontario in the first round, covering an area from Muskoka to Ottawa and Peterborough to SD&G. But the chances of Cornwall getting a licence in the first round are nil because the licences for the first 25 are exclusive to municipalities with a population of at least 50,000.

Thursday’s council meeting starts at 5 p.m. at city hall (360 Pitt Street).