The Town of Erin is taking another look at allowing retail cannabis stores.
At Tuesday meeting, council approved a motion to direct staff to conduct a public survey to gauge residents’ opinion on allowing them.
The town was one of three municipalities that previously opted-out of allowing cannabis stores. Centre Wellington and Mapleton also chose not to allow retail cannabis.
To date, there is a single operational cannabis store in Wellington County — the recently opened The Green Cloud Cannabis in Arthur — but five more are in various stages of the application stage for Rockwood, Mount Forest and Arthur.
After a February presentation from a cannabis company looking to open up in Erin, council directed staff to report back on the feasibility and reality of opting-in.
Angela Sciberras, planning consultant, gave this update at the meeting giving the pros and cons of this move.
She explained there is potential for future funding opportunities as well as a potential to reduce the illegal trade while benefiting the local economy.
However, downsides noted were the need for additional smoking bylaws, additional enforcement and little control over the number of stores to be allowed and their locations.
Also, the municipality is merely a commenting agency, with only 15 days from the date of posting to review and respond to a new store application.
Coun. Michael Robins asked for clarification on lack of control over clustering as he recalled the City of Burlington had passed a policy to keep them 500 metres apart.
Sciberras replied this was a policy statement and not a bylaw. She explained the Association of Municipalities Ontario had prepared a policy statement template for municipalities to use recognizing the regulations the province set-up weren’t adequate.
“They have encouraged municipalities to have guidelines for more stringent rules but they are guidelines,” Sciberras said. “In Burlington’s case, if applications come in they advise of their policy statement ... but there is no obligation on the part of the province to listen to that.”
Robins continued by asking how they can control the look and feel of stores although he joked the presentations that have come forward look nicer than “the headshops I remember in the 70s.”
Sciberras clarified it can’t be treated any differently than any other retail store.
The results of the last public survey showed public opinion on opting-in or out was almost evenly split, with a slight nudge toward opposed.
Robins wondered if it was time to see if opinion had changed since they had time to see how it has worked in other communities.
“One of the reasons we decided not to (opt-in) was because we didn’t understand what the implications were on our community,” Robins said, adding he figures the main market would likely be seniors looking to manage pain or sleep. “We now have two years to understand and I suspect that it’s much ado about nothing.”
Mayor Allan Alls said his mind on this matter has changed as well for similar thoughts to the benefits to the older community.
“I’ve had calls from senior citizens who say that they think this should happen and that really surprised me,” Alls said.
Coun. John Brennan agreed with the idea of another survey but mentioned he’s still a bit unsure.
“I’m leery because we have no real ability to enforce any bylaws or guidelines around these but I think going back to residents and asking them the question again...I think that’s a worthwhile effort,” Brennan said.
Council approved the report and directed staff to prepare a public survey.