Cornwall opts in on allowing marijuana shops

Cornwall city council talks about allowing pot shops within city limits during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. The council voted unanimously to opt in after a one hour discussion. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – City council has voted unanimously to allow retail marijuana shops within city boundaries.

The recorded vote came after a one hour discussion which included a presentation by city staff and remarks from Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman and Deputy Chief Shawna Spowart.

With opting in passed, the city will now develop a policy statement – basically an overview of where and under what circumstances they would see retail pot shops in the city. The policy statement would give the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario an idea of where the city would like to see the establishments but the AGCO still has the final say on whether a licence is issued.

At least in the short term, budding Cornwall entrepreneurs have no chance of getting one of the first 25 licences from the AGCO because the city’s population is less than 50,000.

Coun. Syd Gardiner said the province should have considered the population as a region – Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G is roughly 112,000 – which is also a hotbed for drug and tobacco smuggling. He believes that having a retail outlet would cut down on smuggling. “None of that was taken into consideration. I think we deserve that,” he said.

Coun. Dean Hollingsworth felt the city needed to opt in because people would just drive to neighbouring townships to get their pot. South Stormont is a “six minute drive” down the road, he said. “Who are we kidding,” he quipped. South Glengarry and South Dundas have also opted in.

Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman believes it won’t be as costly for the city down the road now that it has opted in.

“I think what we’ll see is, we’ll be less likely to have to deal in the future with illegal locations because the process will eventually identify a legal location,” Aikman told Cornwall Newswatch.

“I don’t anticipate that we would have to add additional resources but we may have to reassign some personnel within our current complement to address those retail locations and/or those illegal locations that may arise,” the chief told CNW.

The city has already received $56,315 from the Ontario government as compensation for projected increased costs for legalizing cannabis.

Chief Aikman told council that a good chunk of that money may go to policing.

The force has gone through training for field sobriety testing and also spent money on drug recognition expert training. There are two more officers that have had the drug recognition training, which costs over $5,000 per officer.

“We’ve spent a lot of time training and that’s been the single biggest impact on our organization is the training required,” Aikman said.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Mayor Bernadette Clement says she is not surprised by today’s decision.

“I had met with every councillor individually before Christmas to get a sense of what the upcoming files would be,” she said. “We did talk about this so I was not surprised by the vote.”

She called it an “interesting debate” because it “foreshadows” all of the issues with the legalization of cannabis.

“What is that $56,000 going to be able to do? What are we going to do with that? How are we going to take public comment on locations and things like that?” she added.

The mayor anticipates taking public feedback from the public on the policy statement, which would “set a tone” for cannabis retail locations in the community.