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Centre Wellington asked to reconsider stand on legal cannabis stores

Centre Wellington initially opted out of allowing legal cannabis, but council is now being asked to have staff prepare a report on opting in
County Coun. Diane Ballantyne and John Mifsud.

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Centre Wellington Township may revisit opting into Ontario's cannabis retail program after a push from residents. 

A notice of motion came from Coun. Bronwynne Wilton at council Monday, directing staff to prepare a report for council’s consideration.

Council will decide at a future meeting whether to go ahead with the request.

The notice stems from a presentation from hopeful dispensary owner, John Mifsud, and county councillor Diane Ballantyne in February.

"I'm glad to see that the initiative has been taken by council," said Ballantyne in an interview Monday, adding she "welcomes" the report. "I think that's a positive step in the right direction." 

During their presentation, Mifsud and Ballantyne argued that legalized cannabis sales in Centre Wellington would create jobs while providing the municipality tax revenue through the Ontario Excise Tax Transfer Framework. 

"I think that residents deserve to have access to a legal and regulated substance," said Ballantyne. "It's time to end the prohibition that we have in our community." 

Since the legalization of cannabis in Canada, all but two municipalities in Wellington County have opted in with cannabis retail: Centre Wellington and Mapleton.

However, Ballantyne and Mifsud's survey of 542 people showed over 82 per cent supported legal cannabis in the municipality.

"Research shows us that regulated cannabis increases the safety of the product for our residents, provides equity of access to a legal and regulated product for our residents, and it reduces the barriers of access for residents," said Ballantyne. "So I think that there are a number of reasons why the prohibition on this particular product should end in Center Wellington."

At the initial meeting, Coun. Jennifer Adams shared concerns about youth access to the drug. 

“Well youth already have easy access to illegal cannabis,” said Ballantyne, in February. “So having regulated and well-supervised retail outlets, the research is showing that actually, it lessens youth getting their hands on it.” 

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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