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Cannabis quandary

by Chris Daponte

It is settled. Four of Wellington County’s lower tier municipalities are open to future retail cannabis stores, while three have opted out.

Guelph-Eramosa, Minto, Puslinch and Wellington North are likely not atop anyone’s list of prime pot store locations (unless you live there and want to make a purchase). Stores are currently limited to large municipalities (over 50,000 residents) and it will likely be years before one is opened in the above municipalities.

Of course there are arguments to be made for opting out of pot sales, as Centre Wellington, Erin and Mapleton have done - not the least of which is a lack of municipal say on store numbers/locations and the possibility of increased access for youths.

Yet much of the opposition voiced to date has inexplicably focused on the legalization of cannabis. As a few councillors throughout the county have noted, whether we like it or not, that ship has sailed.

Nowhere was this misguided approach more apparent than in Centre Wellington, which in our opinion may be the best location for cannabis stores, based on its population and central location in the county.

Of the four municipalities that polled  residents on the issue, Centre Wellington, Minto and Wellington North had strong support for pot sales, with almost two-thirds in favour of local stores.

While the polls are in no way binding, two of those municipalities appeared to at least consider the results, but in Centre Wellington they seem to have been ignored.

Given the survey results, Centre Wellington councillors, even if rejecting pot sales for now, should have agreed to revisit the matter in a year. In fact, that very option was presented to council, but three councillors and the mayor voted against this common-sense approach.

Which begs the question: what if 75% of residents had voted in favour of cannabis stores? Or 90%? It likely would not have mattered to the four council members who rejected the shops outright, as we suspect morality - rather than practicality  - is the driving force behind their decision.

It’s the same kind of shortsighted, holier-than-thou thinking that led three of the four to vote (unsuccessfully) against an expansion of the slots facility in Elora two years ago, despite its obvious benefits for the community (gambling is bad because we said so).

Why bother with a survey at all if councillors had already made up their minds? The answer, of course, is that keeping up the appearance of public consultation provides job security for members of council.

Yet many residents have been left feeling alienated by another affirmation that their voices don’t matter.

It seems to us a little consideration for voters during the four years between elections would go a lot farther to increase voter turnout than a couple weeks of online/phone voting come election time.


February 1, 2019


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