Editorial: Legal cannabis sales

Marijuana is coming. The Canadian government recently passed legislation to legalize recreation cannabis, or marijuana, use. Starting October 17th pot will be legal.

Under the previous Ontario government, marijuana was to be sold by the government. A series of LCBO-like stores were expected to dot the province where users could buy cannabis. However, with the recent change in government, significant changes have been be made involving cannabis sales.

Starting October, recreational users will be able to buy pot online from the government. By spring of 2019, privately-owned businesses, which will be licenced, will be able to sell their product in local communities.

The legislation to accomplish this will be tabled in the fall sitting of the Ontario Legislature.

Premier Doug Ford, however, also announced that municipalities will have “a one-time opt-out ability”.

What this means: a resolution or by-law by a municipal council can declare that municipality pot-free, or at least legal pot-sales free.

This is a lose-lose situation for municipalities. On one side, community leaders will be able to decide if they want to allow legal sales of marijuana in “their town.” Just as some municipalities have always placed limits on certain types of businesses, this may be welcome news for those who are still be uneasy about the legalization of marijuana.

On the other side are businesses who want to sell a legal, licenced product. Does government have the right to restrict such companies when they are acting openly and fully within the law?

Questioned by The Leader, current members of South Dundas council who responded said the matter would be placed on the agenda for discussion at an upcoming meeting. With the legislation planned for the fall, the whole question is likely be decided by council after the October 22nd election. The pot issue is not going away.

Ford’s announcements put communities and local governments in a very awkward position. If Premier Ford truly intended pot sales to be a matter of private enterprise, an “opt out” clause should not be on the books. No matter what choice they make, local governments have been tossed headfirst into yet another political mine field.