Ottawa city council to allow retail cannabis stores
After nearly five hours of debate, Ottawa city council has voted to allow retail cannabis stores to operate within its borders.
“That’s no good for children.” said an Ottawa grandmother; reacting to news pot retail stores have been approved unanimously by city council.
Mayor Jim Watson made it official today following a 24-0 vote by council after nearly five hours of delegations in a special meeting at city hall.
“It's not a question of a victory or a loss; this is a divisive issue as we saw with the polling. But at the end of the day, it is a legal product and our responsibility was very narrow. We had to decide whether to allow retail stores or not and i think council made the right decision.” said Watson.
Though some councillors, including Rick Chiarelli and Carol Anne Meehan put up a fight. Coun. Carol Anne Meehan put forward a motion to opt out of allowing the stores, saying the province has not given cities enough control about where stores can open. That motion was defeated 22-2.
“It was important for me to speak up for the 50 percent of people who say no to cannabis; that they don't like it. It is a bad deal and I think we've lost the opportunity here today to put pressure on the provincial government to give us a better deal” said Meehan.
Deputy mayor, councillor Matthew Luloff said the yes vote was a no-brainer.
“The only way to keep it out of the hands of kids is to regulate it and the federal government has done its part; the provincial government is attaching money and we need to opt-in to this.”
Councillor Mathieu Fleury says the city is asking the province for more zoning and licencing powers, thus granting Ottawa a bigger say in where stores will go and who will run them.
Those decisions will now be made by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
“We would've clearly preferred the LCBO model. You have representation across communities but obviously the current Ford government has chosen not to head in that direction.” said Fleury.
The only way to buy cannabis in Ontario is online until April 1. The move to sell pot in stores across the city was supported by Ottawa Public Health and Ottawa Police.
“I think if we're going to minimize the impact of organized crime in the illicit distribution of drugs; marijuana and cannabis that we should in our city have the market opened up to the legal market.” said Chief Charles Bordeleau.
More than a dozen delegations addressed council today including Mark Asfar, who represents local businesses interested in entering the pot business.
“The number one question we get from them is how do we do this right, how do we comply with the rules. How do i do it so that it is going to be welcomed and embraced by my community by my neighbours.” said Asfar.
Under provincial rules, municipalities have until Jan. 22 to opt out of allowing the private shops. Mayor Jim Watson, however, had said it was not realistic for Ottawa to opt out, and has said he will lobby the province for more municipal control.