Ottawa Mayor Preps For Private Pot Shops

With the legalization of recreational marijuana just seven weeks away, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has ordered the City Hall staff to “take all the necessary steps” so they’ll be ready to help the new council coming in on the 22nd of October in making fast decisions concerning the province’s proposed private retail cannabis stores. The stores are scheduled to launch in April 2019.

During the city council meeting that took place on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Watson directed his staff to start on the cannabis files. He wanted them to start organizing options for public consultations and outreach, either online or in town hall meetings. This will allow the city to “gather feedback in a timely manner” once the legislation on the private store model is introduced by the province sometime this fall.

The mayor also asked that the staff submit the feedback received from the consultations to the province and analyze the potential effects of a decision by the future council to “opt out” of having private pot shops in Ottawa, with Gatineau just across the river.

“Obviously the cannabis file is moving very quickly. It becomes legal in October, stores are able to open in Ontario in April, and we also have an election that falls in between,” Watson told reporters following council’s meeting. “So it was important for me to direct staff to start the process of public consultation in many forms.”

The newly elected council members will have to reach a decision during their first or second meeting once they’ve taken power on the 1st of December.  If the council votes for the marijuana shops to stay, then they’ll need to be up and running by April 2019.

“So staff will have to have done some public consultation on that to get an idea of what the community feels about that,” said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services.

“We're looking at online, maybe phone-type public consultation, and probably councillors will want to do some [consultations] inwards. So we have to have everything ready, and the team is working diligently on that.” The new council will also hear from the city’s’ various departments on the economic, social and public health ramifications of hosting cannabis stores.

A previous plan to sell legal marijuana through an arm of the LCBO was scrapped by the provincial government. Instead, they opted to handle retail sales through private businesses. However, the details of how exactly this will work are minimal, and new legislation probably won’t be tabled at Queen’s Park until after the coming municipal election.

Di Monte told reporters that while the city will go about asking residents for their general thoughts on retail cannabis stores, including where they should be located, staff will need to ask more in-depth questions based on the legislation the province decides to pass.

“We want a public consultation process that's valid,” Di Monte said


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