Wawa Municipal Council's holding off on deciding whether to allow cannabis retail stores in town.
While recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada, the Ontario government's given municipalities until January 22nd to "opt out" of allowing the stores when they start opening in April - any municipality that has opted out would be able to "opt in" at a later date, but a municipality that does opt in will not be able to change.
Chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Ron Rody, Councillor and Deputy Mayor Pat Tait stated his preference for the LCBO conducting cannabis sales - an idea rejected by the PC government - then opened discussion to members of the public in attendance.
Community Services and Tourism Director Alex Patterson noted potential tourism benefits for allowing such stores - similar to having the LCBO or Beer Store - while Councillor Mitch Hatfield lamented that Council does not have more time to make the decision, suggesting an expert panel would have been helpful, and Councillor Robert Reece suggested a survey of the public may help inform Council's decision, but concerns were raised about how much time that could take and how much is left.
It was also noted that a municipality that opts out will not be able to access special funding intended to address the spinoff effects of legal cannabis sales.
Council is expected to discuss the issue further - and make a final decision - at their next meeting, on January 15th - one week before the deadline to opt out.
Chapleau Council also discussed the issue this week, but requested more information before making a decision - their next meeting is also in January.