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Council to mull retail pot sales

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Whether or not town council will allow cannabis stores to operate in Fort Frances will be decided next month.

Town council agreed at its meeting Monday night to refer the matter to the Planning and Development executive committee for review and its recommendation, as suggested by Coun. Douglas Judson.

In a report from Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown, he noted there's three main options for council to consider:

  • Opting-out and not allowing recreational cannabis retail stores within town limits;
  • Opting-in and allowing recreational cannabis retail stores within town limits, with the option to consider developing a policy statement in regards to cannabis retail store locations; or
  • Do nothing and the town automatically will allow cannabis retail stores within the community and no policy statement will be created.

Brown said that from an administration perspective, the town allowing for recreational cannabis retail stores means more taxes and more jobs.

But he also admitted “it's a sensitive issue.”

“The whole debate over legalizing cannabis in Canada went on for six months longer than it should have. It's sensitive,” he remarked.

“There's a lot of extreme views at both ends of the spectrum, so I think bringing it to Planning and Development to discuss it makes sense,” Brown added.

Mayor June Caul said “it's a big decision for council to make.”

“Yes, we've had lots of material to read already but I would like to suggest to council that because this is still so new, and because we don't have to worry about opting in or out until Jan. 22, that maybe we just gather more information and have more opportunity to discuss this whole matter before or during our next meeting on Jan. 14,” she noted.

Coun. Andrew Hallikas said there's many issues involved in allowing cannabis retail stores within the community.

“I think you'll find that everybody on council will have some varying views on this,” he noted.

“I think Mr. Brown hit one of the big nails on the head which is the economy,” Coun. Hallikas added.

"If we don't allow sales here, then it's very likely our neighbours will allow sales, or some of them at least.

“As well, something to consider is it's not legal for our neighbours to the south," he said. ”There's a very real thing called 'marijuana tourism' going on and that could be an economic boost for our town.

“That's one factor among many.”

Coun. Michael Behan, the new council appointee to the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce board of directors, noted he had asked the Chamber at its general membership meeting on Nov. 27 if it had a position on the issue of recreational cannabis retail sales here.

The Chamber indicated it did not but would poll its members on the issue.

Given the tight timeline, Coun. Behan said he stressed that the Chamber would have to respond quickly so its input could be considered in any decision council makes.

The Planning and Development executive committee will meet Jan. 7 and give its recommendation to council on Jan. 14—a little over a week before the provincial government's deadline to pass a resolution before Jan. 22.

If council opts to allow recreational cannabis retail stores within town limits, sales can commence on April 1, 2019.

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