Ontario cannabis plan would remove municipalities’ direct control over store locations

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Ontario’s gambling and alcohol regulator will decide where cannabis stores will be located and how many each municipality will get under the proposed cannabis legislation introduced at Queen’s Park this week.

The plan leaves a stark choice for more than 400 cities, towns, townships, parishes, hamlets and villages across Ontario that have been given a deadline of Jan. 22 to either opt in or opt out of cannabis retail. If they opt out, the provincial government says they can change their mind later. But if they opt in, the legislation says their decision will be “final and may not be further reversed.”

“It’s all or nothing,” said Trina Fraser, an Ottawa-based lawyer with a focus on clients such as licensed medical cannabis producers, investors and cannabis clinics. “It’s either we opt out and there are none, or we opt in, and then the province basically tells us where they’re going to go and how many we’re getting.”

The Tories’ new plan, which prohibits municipalities from designating cannabis retail as a separate land use from general retail or creating any of their own licensing regimes, is part of a dramatic policy shift announced in July. The Ontario PCs scrapped the former Liberal government’s plan for government-run stores in favour of private brick-and-mortar retailers. When a store is proposed under the new legislation, the municipality and its residents would be given 15 days to offer commentary. But, ultimately, the decision will rest with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

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Victoria Gibson – Globe and Mail – October 1, 2018.

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