Council debates potential pot shop locations

A big decision for the City on marijuana legalization will be figuring out where to put licensed retailers.

At this week's meeting, council debated staff's proposal of exclusion zones, that would keep the stores off the Bernard and South Pandosy corridors.

Councillor Charlie Hodge didn't like that, and says there's a stigma around marijuana that the city shouldn't perpetuate.

"I think we have to make sure that we don't give it that negative taboo again, by how we handle where we allow it to be. I think that would be a negative step," he said.

"There are a lot of people out there that, whether we want to recognize it or not, are seniors, people with disabilities, people with health issues. It's not just your potheads that want to go and buy pot. There's going to be a lot of other people who are interested in this, and we don't need to make it difficult for them."

Councillor Luke Stack agreed with the exclusion suggestion, arguing that the stores shouldn't be pushed down people's throats.

"I think we're a little bit naive if we believe that everyone in our city is 100% on board with this whole cannabis thing. I know there's a lot of people out there who have huge concerns over alcohol, and the amount of consumption," he said.

"I do think we need to tread carefully, and as we gain a little experience, and see how things play out, then we can always modify the bylaws."

The staff report also included plans to continue studying the possibility of selling cannabis directly from grow facilities on farmland, as well as implement yet-to-be determined distances between schools, parks, and retail liquor and cannabis stores. 

Councillor Tracy Gray says with no clear information on the amount of revenue the city will get, the amount of leverage the province has is concerning.

"I just have to say that I strongly disagree that a level of government, in this case the province, as the regulator of an industry is competing with the private sector," she said.

"So now they have three lines of revenue. They have their own retail, they have all the distribution, plus taxes."

Before any regulations are finalized, staff will meet with community stakeholders, and then report back to council.