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City of Ottawa Gives Residents a Chance to Vote on the Future of Retail Cannabis Stores



The city of Ottawa has about three months to make up its mind on whether or not it wants to allow retail cannabis stores to operate within the city, and has decided to seek the public’s opinion on the issue.

Ottawa residents have been invited to complete a survey, on the issue. The survey began on October 25 and would end on November 7th, 2018 and the questions are targeted towards helping residents to express their views on whether cannabis retail stores should be allowed in Ottawa.

Paper copies of the survey are also available at the City’s Client Service Centres.

Even though cannabis is now being retailed online in Ontario through the Ontario Cannabis Store, the Province of Ontario has also produced a framework that would permit the operation of retail cannabis stores in Ontario beginning April 1, 2019.

However, the province is leaving it to the municipalities in Ontario to decide whether or not to allow cannabis retail stores to operate within their boundaries. The municipalities have until January 22, 2019, to make this decision.

The city of Ottawa has therefore decided to use the results of these online and paper surveys to make an informed decision as to whether to allow cannabis retail stores to operate in Ottawa.

Residents can take part in the survey at ottawa.ca.

It can be recalled that the province had announced in September that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario will regulate the marketplace, and would have the power to grant and revoke licences and also implement provincial rules on cannabis sales. Owing to this, anyone hoping to run a pot shop will have to apply for a retail-operator licence and a retail store authorization for each potential location.

"We want to make sure the consumers are protected but we want to open up the marketplace," said Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. "This is an opportunity for small business to get involved. We want to have as many participants as possible be involved."

The government had also warned that anyone breaching provincial rules on cannabis sales would not have the opportunity of ever obtaining a licence in the future, they had mandated every illegal pot shop in the city to close before the October 17th official legalization date and most of the shops had complied.

"Any engagement with organized crime, any record of providing youth cannabis, any of that would bar you from participating in the private cannabis market," Fedeli said. "If you are still operating an illegal retail operation after Oct. 17, you would not be able to get a licence in Ontario."

A liberal legislator Nathalie Des Rosier said issuing licenses to private firms may result in too many pot shops being set up, which will be a challenge to regulate.

"It certainly is a completely free market that may flood Ontario," she said. "The cautious approach that we had used is a little bit undermined here."