Buzzkill: ND says OK to retail pot AFTER province allocates stores in process excluding township anyway

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — North Dundas Council officially “opted in” to allowing retail cannabis sales last night — even as the Ontario government recently extinguished that possibility in the township for the time being.

Tuesday night’s unanimous vote came after the proverbial pot party seemed to be over. Twenty-five limited retail licences were already allocated elsewhere in Ontario last Saturday, under a lottery process that had locked out North Dundas as too small to qualify anyway.

Only five pot shop licences were available to be won by applicants in Eastern Ontario — and limited to those proposing to operate in communities of 50,000 or more. That population cutoff even left out the City of Cornwall, let alone the nearby rural townships that had already beaten North Dundas to the punch by opting in during recent days: South Stormont, North Stormont, South Dundas, South Glengarry and Russell.

Municipalities have until Jan. 22 to permanently opt in to retail marijuana sales.

The new North Dundas council briefly touched on the matter during the first meeting of the term, Dec. 11, but made no decision at the time. Just two days later, the Ford government changed expectations mid-stream by capping the incoming outlets at 25 across the province — much more modest than the supposedly unlimited number of private operators proposed by the governing Conservatives last fall. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario ran the lottery last week and revealed the winning applicants on Jan. 12.

Mayor Tony Fraser reflected on the changed circumstances when council met Jan. 15. “It seems kind of odd they made the announcement and all the numbers [for individual municipalities] aren’t in yet,” said Fraser to North Dundas Planning, Building and Enforcement Director Calvin Pol. “Am I missing something there or ….?”

Pol explained the five winners of the lottery for this region — four of them are individuals, not corporations — might still be settling on the precise communities for their businesses. But he made clear there was “no chance” for North Dundas because of the “minimum population threshold needed to get in the game” — with only Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa in the 50,000-plus category in Eastern Ontario. “So Cornwall doesn’t even qualify.”

The Ford government has blamed the short supply of cannabis as the reason for its modest rollout of 25 stores, which is supposed to happen by April.

“Until the federal government is able to get more supply, we’re kind of stuck,” said local MPP Jim McDonell. “It wouldn’t be fair for somebody to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on a store and then have no product to sell,” the MPP said, also noting that cannabis outlets won’t be allowed to sell other products if their shelves go empty.

McDonell couldn’t offer a timeline on when additional stores might be approved — it’s contingent on greater supply — but suggested the next round might allocate an additional five locations in Eastern Ontario without stipulating a population of 50,000.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario lists the winners of the five Eastern Ontario retail licences as Daniel Telio, Brandon Long, Patterson and Lavoie, PURE ALPHA HOLDINGS and Karan Someshwar.

The lottery also selected a “wait list” of 100 individuals and businesses. It was not immediately clear when — or even if — those entities will ever be able to go ahead with their plans. On the East region’s wait list are: RASHI ONTARIO INCORPORATED, Rebecca Donna Gunn, kytsenko holdings ltd, Mohawk-Cana, Dalbeer Brar, Jordan Druxerman, Richard Carter, David Gerry Cynamon, Ikeji Chinyere Julieth, 2489820 Ontario Inc, CHAHIRA SALEH, Rachel Martinez, Andrew Rodricks, Lisa James, 1906737 ontario limited, Claude Phillip LaFleche, Tiffany Doris MacKay Chen, Constantine Nicitopoulos, Dana Gold, Antoinette Davies.

Consumers can currently buy legal product online through only the Ontario Cannabis Store. The province launched the OCS on Oct.17, coinciding with the legalization of recreational marijuana under federal legislation brought in by the Trudeau government.

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