Dear Municipal Candidates:
I am following up on a previous letter regarding Premier Doug Ford’s flawed scheme to download private cannabis shops onto municipalities. It has come to my attention that some municipal councils are unaware of their options. I also want to share results of a Nanos poll that OPSEU commissioned so you and every municipal leader are equipped to make the best possible decision for the people in your communities.
Once you opt into the private, for-profit cannabis retail model, you effectively relinquish all further control. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will issue licences. If council objects to an applicant, the number of cannabis shops, or their location, you can try writing to the AGCO. That’s it.
To add insult to injury, you will be the ones picking up the hefty tab for regulation enforcement, whether through the police or bylaw inspectors, not to mention social costs. In other words, when the Premier sends the cannabis circus into your community, your only role will be to clean up the mess.
However, Doug Ford is giving municipalities a one-time option: Opt out by January 22, 2019, or you’re in. It’s like the negative-billing ploy Rogers tried years ago: Do nothing, and you’re stuck with the bill.
That’s why I urge you, when elected to municipal council, to stand up for your communities and opt out of private cannabis shops now. You can always opt in, but after January 22, you can never opt out. The sale and consumption of cannabis may come with untold social and fiscal repercussions. There is no need to rush in. Take your time and observe the impact on the municipalities that have opted in. Judge for yourself whether this is something that will improve the quality of life for your residents.
But I suggest a third and better way: retrofitting existing LCBO outlets to distribute cannabis. Why? Because LCBO staff have a proven track record when it comes to selling responsibly. They will stock only legally sourced and tested product from approved suppliers. Your enforcement costs will be vastly diminished, and safety and security will be better assured.
Still unconvinced? A recent Nanos poll says half of people aged 55 and up – the demographic most likely to vote – are less or somewhat less likely to vote for candidates who favour private cannabis sales. Just one in four say the opposite. Only one third of all voters are more or somewhat more likely to vote for candidates in favour of private cannabis. Further, Ontarians are 11 times more likely to choose the LCBO over private stores to keep cannabis out of kids’ hands. Visit responsibleplan.ca for more information.
I urge you to opt out of privatized cannabis now. Then tell the Premier you don’t want private, for-profit outlets operating wherever the AGCO dictates. Tell him the responsible public option is the safest, most trusted means of selling cannabis – and that you need and want that option for your residents.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union