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Provincially-Licensed Cannabis Retail Stores in Brampton


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Remarks – Special Council Meeting, January 21, 2019

 

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day. Because this past week has been tainted with references to another leader in the USA, I thought I would enlighten the debate to honour Martin Luther King Jr instead.

 

Around this time in 1947, Martin Luther King Jr wrote: The Purpose of Education.

 

Here is an excerpt:

“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

 

The community is somewhat split on the issue of Cannabis Retail in Brampton. Therefore, it is critical to draw on education and evidence for this decision.

 

As a mom, my knee-jerk reaction was to opt-out of retail cannabis based on fear and stigma.

 

However, after presentations from staff, listening to residents on both sides of the debate, and conducting my own personal research, my initial knee-jerk reaction was wrong.

At the town hall meeting on December 10th I witnessed a number of participants who initially wanted to opt-out and changed their minds after the presentation and debate.

People like Daryl Romeo, who ran as a candidate in the same area as me, and Karla Bailey who ran as a candidate in the same area as Councillor Williams. Both initially wanted us to opt-out but after understanding the facts, they are now suggesting we opt-in.

 

I will re-emphasize some important points to consider:

 

1.     Despite the Federal Government legalizing recreational cannabis, the reality is, it’s already here. It has been sold and consumed illegally, for years in our neighbourhoods with zero control over the potency, quality, and safety of the product. Controlled distribution of the product would counter this illegal market. Any notion to suggest that it can be stopped or blocked is misleading. Only the federal government, can reinstate prohibition, which still wouldn’t keep it out of our neighbourhood.

 

2.     The argument around retail cannabis inflicting more crime and violence has proven to be false. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Studies published in the Foundation for Economic Education, the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, and the Journal of Urban Economics suggest that the legalization of cannabis with controlled and regulated local distribution actually decreases criminal activity, mostly referencing a decrease in violent crime and theft.

 

3.     Economic impact and cost to the property tax payer? Only one Brampton retailer was selected in the lottery on January 11th. When you consider the cost we must absorb to locally enforce the legalization of the product and the potential revenue the city would forfeit, we seriously have to ask ourselves, is it worth it for one or two retail stores in Brampton? Many residents have also pointed out the economic impact and job creation from this emerging sector. All are important considerations as we look ahead to budget deliberations.

 

4.     A possible “pot shop invasion”, if and when the Province decides to increase the number of licenses issued. This hypothetical assumption is one solely based on fear. There is a cannabis supply shortage. I’m not sure how the invasion will happen if the supply to sell the product is extremely limited. Perhaps we should ask Will Smith for advice based on his experience in Independence Day. All ridiculousness aside, I would imagine that anyone who has the luck of the draw with a retail cannabis license, will not want to mess up the opportunity. It makes market sense and serves their interest to behave as responsibly as possible because if they don’t, they could ruin their brand and any chance for them to sell in another local market.

 

5.     It has been suggested that we opt-out because of surrounding municipalities, but we can’t base this decision on a game of Simon Says. This decision must be based on the best interests of Brampton. If we are looking for solidarity from other municipalities I can guarantee you that they are only looking out for their own share of the pie, and we have no idea if and when any of them will opt-in, in the future. So what’s the point in waiting? We can still advocate and push the Federal and Provincial governments for more control and our fair share regardless. The decision to opt-in now, almost guarantees a larger share of the pie to help us offset our costs and increase the certainty around a new revenue stream.

 

So, I too wanted to Opt-out as a knee-jerk reaction. However, when we push the propaganda, misperceptions, stigma and fear aside to truly understand the issue, it is in the best interests of Brampton, to make the rational choice to opt-in.

 

On that note, I’d like to bring forward a motion:

 

MOTION: Provincially-Licensed Cannabis Retail Stores in Brampton

 

WHEREAS the Federal Government reviewed the benefits and consequences related to the legalization of recreational cannabis use and on October 17, 2018, the Federal Government passed legislation making it legal for those over the age of 18 (age 19 in Ontario) to possess (up to 30 grams) and to use recreational cannabis;

 

AND WHEREAS based on the Federal legislation above, any concerns, questions or comments regarding the legalization of recreational cannabis use are limited to responses under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government;

AND WHEREAS the now legal substance, cannabis, is already known to be distributed through an underground and illegal market in Brampton, across the GTA, and province;

 

AND WHEREAS the federal legalization of cannabis has created a legal market opportunity that will compete with illegal and uncontrolled distribution;

 

AND WHEREAS in Ontario, it is currently only legal to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS); with provincially licensed private retail stores as of April 1, 2019;

 

AND WHEREAS the Provincial Government through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is responsible for licensing private retail stores to be opened by April 1, 2019;

 

AND WHEREAS due to a national cannabis shortage, the Government of Ontario has restricted the number of licensed private retail stores to 25; with the AGCO conducting a lottery on January 11, 2019 for the following distribution of licences:

•    6 licences for the Greater Toronto Area

•    5 licences for the Toronto Region

•    5 licences for the East Region

•    7 licences for the West Region

•    2 licences for the North Region

 

AND WHEREAS only one retail cannabis applicant from Brampton was selected from the AGCO lottery on January 11, 2019;

 

AND WHEREAS the City of Brampton will begin its budgeting process in February, and the municipal costs related to the Federal Government’s legislation to legalize recreational cannabis is projected in a range between $360K to approx. $500K or more, for City of Brampton bylaw enforcement, security patrols in parks and trails, 311, fire (grow ops), and some minor costs for building, and uncertain cost implications for Peel Regional Police and Peel Public Health;

AND WHEREAS for municipalities who opt-in by January 22, 2019, the provincial government has committed to allocating $40M along with revenue sharing from federal government’s excise tax surplus from recreational cannabis sales; based on estimated sales projections developed for the federal government; and presuming the total available funding would be allocated  only to the municipalities who opt-in by January 22, 2019, the City of Brampton’s portion could range from, but not limited to $742,000 to $2.9M

 

AND WHEREAS the Government of Ontario has given municipalities until January 22, 2019 to determine whether legally licensed cannabis retailers can operate within its municipal boundaries;

 

AND WHEREAS it is uncertain as to if and when, other surrounding municipalities who opted-out will choose to opt-in at a later date;

 

AND WHEREAS the City of Brampton has been engaging the public in a robust and comprehensive public engagement strategy to seek feedback into the decision process that included, a scientifically valid Environics Telephone Survey (Nov 1-4, 2018); an online pulse check (October 30 – November 9, 2018); intercept surveys at various locations on December 20, 2018 and between January 8 – 10, 2019; a Town Hall on January 10, 2019; a Tele Town Hall that was hosted by the Mayor; and a Special Council Meeting on this day, January 21, 2019.

 

AND WHEREAS the City has been keeping the public informed through Brampton.ca/cannabis and inviting residents to provide comments at cannabis@brampton.ca;

 

AND WHEREAS on Friday, January 18th, local Members of Parliament (MPs Ruby Sahota and Sonia Sidhu) and local Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs Prabmeet Sakaria, Amarjot Sandhu, Sara Singh, Kevin Yarde, and Gurratan Singh) responded to the Mayor’s letter dated Thursday, January 17th, and based on the responses or lack thereof, none of the local MPs and MPPs have recommended that the City of Brampton opt-out of retail cannabis stores.

 

AND WHEREAS studies published, for example, in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, and the Journal of Urban Economics suggest that controlled retail distribution of legalized cannabis is linked to a reduction in crime;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

 

1. City Council not opt-out of provincially-licensed cannabis retail stores in Brampton.

 2. The City continue to advocate to both the provincial and federal governments for its share of revenue to offset all costs including unanticipated costs associated to the City, Region of Peel and Peel Regional Police due to the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis;

 

3. City Council authorize the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), to negotiate and enter into any required agreements to receive intergovernmental funding for implementation of cannabis legalization, with terms and conditions satisfactory to the CAO and the City Solicitor.

 

4. City Council request the Province of Ontario to provide the City with the regulatory authority to further restrict the location of cannabis retail stores based on proximity to other City-identified sensitive uses such as schools, community centres, youth facilities, addiction treatment centres and other cannabis retail stores.

 

5. City Council request the Province of Ontario to allocate the funding and revenues specifically to each municipality that has opted-in to retail cannabis within Peel Region and ensure that this funding and revenue is directed to services within the municipalities that have opted-in.

 

6. City Council request the CAO/Commissioner of Corporate Services in consultation with the Peel Region Medical Officer for Public Health report on:

 

a. possible by-law amendments, including penalties and fines, to prohibit the consumption of lit recreational cannabis in public places in the City of Brampton such as, but not limited to, City parks, trails, natural areas, sidewalks and roads, and at least 150 metres from childcare facilities, libraries, community centres, halfway houses, group homes, methadone clinics, harm reduction clinics, mental health facilities, youth counselling services, and other at-risk community places; and

 

b. actions in other Ontario jurisdictions related to prohibiting the consumption of lit cannabis in public places.

Links to articles and reports:

https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/marijuana/article163750293.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/legal-marijuana-medical-use-crime-rate-plummets-us-study

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268118300386

https://fee.org/articles/how-marijuana-legalization-reduces-violent-crime-and-puts-drug-smugglers-out-of-work/

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7jawikshlkd9cia/GKZ_MML_Press.pdf?dl=0

http://theconversation.com/legal-highs-arguments-for-and-against-legalising-cannabis-in-australia-95069

https://www.straight.com/cannabis/984481/closing-cannabis-dispensaries-increases-crime-according-california-study

“Cuomo Moves to Legalize Recreational Marijuana in New York within Months”