Will Brampton opt into legal marijuana shops? Officials say lots of unanswered questions about legal cannabis
Ontario Premier Doug Ford isn’t the only politician unsure about the implications surrounding new cannabis legislation—in Brampton local officials remain unclear about whether legal marijuana will be sold in the city and where, while questions about its use in public spaces are also being raised.
”Working cooperatively we can develop rules that will protect our community while regulating approved retailers," incumbent mayor Linda Jeffrey told The Pointer Friday.
The new federal legislation legalizing marijuana comes into effect October 17, and in Ontario sales for those 19 and older will initially only be through a provincially-run online store, a cyber version of an LCBO outlet, for marijuana sales. Retail legalization is expected to come into effect next year.
On Friday Ford illustrated the confusion over all the new rules when he suggested that marijuana use, under his government’s rules, won’t be allowed around parks. Cannabis use will be allowed in parks, but not around children’s playground areas. Ford suggested he was not in favour of this, before backtracking after it was pointed out that his comment didn’t square with his own government’s rules.
In Brampton, public conversations about the sale and use of legal marijuana have not been initiated by city council, unlike some GTA city councils that have already engaged in a public process to get feedback on the potential impacts of legalized cannabis in their communities.
Brampton has not yet addressed issues such as whether it will allow retail sales or how it will regulate such locations if allowed, and what the city will do to establish community guidelines for the use of marijuana in compliance with provincial legislation.
Jeffrey, who supports the properly regulated sale of marijuana as long as measures are taken to ensure children and youth are considered and to guarantee other community standards are respected, said it remains to be decided if the city will even allow legal retail marijuana outlets.
"I am fully committed to supporting community consultations before we decide whether, we as a City, opt-in or out.”
Incumbent mayors in other GTA cities such as Markham and Richmond Hill, have publicly stated they will not support the federal and provincial rules.
“We had a number of people attend our council meetings and say they weren’t interested in being a part of any of this process,” Richmond Hill incumbent mayor Dave Barrow told CTV news last month.
He said his council was given a petition signed by more than 1,000 residents demanding that Richmond Hill not allow legal pot stores.
“The concern with the community is the fact that it will be seen as an acceptable thing to do and most parents don’t want their children thinking that is the case,” Barrow said, at the time.
Markham council has also signalled that it will opt out of the provincial plan to allow legal marijuana outlets next year.
Brampton mayoral hopeful and former Ontario PC Party leader Patrick Brown was asked what he would do about the issue, if elected in next month’s municipal election.
“The issue of marijuana use in Brampton needs to be viewed through two realities,” Brown told The Pointer Friday. “One, it will soon be legalized for personal use in Canada under federal legislation that the city cannot ignore nor amend. Second, the fact is that cannabis is a recreational drug of choice for many in our city."
“Ignoring reality will simply push buyers into neighbouring communities that do have retail locations, returning to Brampton to use, or, even worse, using in these other municipalities and driving while impaired to return back home to Brampton.”
Brown stressed the need for proper, enforceable regulation to control the use and sale of legal marijuana to ensure it does not jeopardize public safety.
“My position is clear: Legal cannabis retail locations should be tightly controlled through by-law: e.g. no shops near schools, hospitals or addiction treatment program locations, or in residential neighbourhoods, or downtown. Municipal by-laws should be clearly amended to identify what areas are zoned for legal retail cannabis shops. And strong penalties need to be incurred by those who set up shops outside approved areas of the city, or sell in violation of city regulations.”
He said that the federal and provincial governments need to fully fund all municipal costs to support legalized marijuana, from necessary health and social implications to policing to ensure officers have all required technology, monitoring equipment, training and support to properly address challenges Brown says are sure to arise after cannabis is legalized.
”These new costs should not be borne by municipal taxpayers,” Brown said.
Jeffrey outlined many of the same concerns.
“I am guided by the following principles,” she said: “The safety of my community is paramount, especially our youth; hosting any retail sites must respect the local retail environment so as not to disrupt current and longstanding businesses; retail sites need to have rigorous background and safety audits; regular compliance audits to ensure retailers are obeying all federal, provincial and municipal laws.”
She added that, if re-elected, she will use her seat on the Police Service Board to ensure the force is properly resourced with modern monitoring/testing equipment, additional officers if needed, and funding for up-to-date training so that front-line staff can address all the issues that could accompany marijuana legalization.
Retiring Regional Councillor John Sprovieri, who is also vying for the mayor’s job, said he’s concerned with some provincial rules coming into effect.
“I’m pretty flexible on cannabis legalization,” he said. “But we need to be really careful about where it’s sold and used. Parks is not a good idea,” he said, referring to the provincial rules on use in public space that would allow marijuana to be used in some places, such as parks.
“Young kids can get influenced seeing older people in parks smoking up. Just like allowing people to drink in parks. I don’t like the idea of it being smoked openly in public places at all. In your own backyard that’s fine, in your house, that’s fine, at your cottage or in some other places it can be okay. But the smell is really strong, it’s not very pleasant. I don’t think other people should be exposed to it, and it shouldn’t be around kids at all.”
He supports the sale of legal marijuana in Brampton retail outlets, “As long as selling is not in residential areas, not in commercial plazas in residential and other main city-areas. It should be in more isolated areas. What we call industrial commercial places closer to employment areas.”
Sprovieri said he would allow marijuana shops downtown where homes are not too close. “I just don’t want it sold close to where young kids are. The city has not decided on these issues. That’s going to all be decided by the new council. Staff has not brought a report to council. They might be dealing with it, but it wasn’t brought to us. I’m not sure why. Until the new council comes in it’s all going to be up in the air.
“I hope the new council restricts where it can be sold.”
Brampton's two recently elected Conservative MPPs, Amarjot Sandhu and Prabmeet Sarkaria, were asked Friday about plans in Brampton to address their government's incoming rules on legal cannabis. They said they were not aware of what the city is doing to address the impending federal and provincial rules.
One retiring regional councillor, addressing new legal marijuana laws, thinks it’s going to be a lot of complex information to deal with, especially with inexperienced council members, replacing as many as four retiring ones.
“We’ve never had the debate at the council table about what the city of Brampton’s formal position is on the cannabis issue, both where it can be sold and where it should be allowed to be consumed,” said Elaine Moore, who questions why these issues have not yet been dealt with.
“It’s going to be another important piece of business for the new council, which will be facing many, many big issues. I don’t know why we can’t start the conversation now.”
Moore has publicly criticized council’s decision, on Jeffrey’s recommendation, to cancel meetings ahead of the October 22 municipal election, so incumbents can focus on campaigning for re-election, especially after coming off a summer when hardly any council meetings were scheduled.
“I suspect we’re going to have a community very much divided on this. Legalizing marijuana is a very complex issue. There are generational differences, and in a city as diverse as Brampton there are major cultural differences in opinion and values surrounding the issue of marijuana.”
She said with issues such as the LRT, funding for the new university, getting desperately needed money for healthcare and to counter rising violent crime, legal cannabis is one more major issue that a relatively green council will have to deal with.
“We could have started to get the community consultation process moving. I don’t know why council could not start working on that as soon as possible. The mayor (incumbent Linda Jeffrey), should be calling a special meeting so this can be dealt with as soon as possible.”
Moore has been in opposition to Jeffrey on most major council issues throughout the term and is openly supporting Brown in the mayoral race.
“Other mayors are speaking loud and clear about the need to address issues surrounding legal marijuana,” she said. “John Tory (Toronto’s mayor) is speaking loud and clear. He’s establishing it on his agenda. That’s what we need to do.”
LEGAL MARIJUANA FACTS (The following information is from the government of Ontario’s website):
-When it’s legal, people 19 and over will be able to purchase cannabis online through the Ontario Cannabis Store. Online orders will be delivered safely and securely. Consumers will be required to verify their age to accept delivery and no packages will be left unattended at the door.
-You will be able to purchase up to 30 grams (about one ounce) of dried recreational cannabis at one time for personal use.
-As of October 17, 2018, the Ontario Cannabis Store website will be the only legal option for purchasing recreational cannabis. It will follow strict rules set by the federal government.
-The government has also introduced legislation that, if passed, would help the province move forward with a tightly regulated private retail model for cannabis that would launch by April 1, 2019.
Where you will be allowed to smoke and vape cannabis
- Private residences – this does not include residences that are also workplaces (e.g. long-term care and/or retirement homes)
- Many outdoor public places (e.g. sidewalks, parks)
- Designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
- Residential vehicles and boats that meet certain criteria (e.g. have permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored)
- Scientific research and testing facilities (if the cannabis use is for scientific research and testing purposes)
- Controlled areas in:
- long-term care homes
- certain retirement homes
- residential hospices
- provincially-funded supportive housing
- designated psychiatric facilities or veterans’ facilities
Additional restrictions on smoking and vaping may exist in municipal bylaws, lease agreements, and the policies of employers and property owners.
Where you will not be allowed to smoke or vape cannabis
You will not be able to smoke or vape cannabis in:
- indoor common areas in condos, apartment buildings and university/college residences
- enclosed public places and enclosed work places
- non-designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
Schools and places where children gather
You will not be able smoke or vape cannabis:
- at school, on school grounds, and all public areas within 20m of these grounds
- on children’s playgrounds and public areas within 20m of playgrounds
- in child care centres, or where an early years program is provided
- in places where home child care is provided – even if children aren’t present
Hospitals, hospices, care homes and other facilities
You will not be able to smoke or vape cannabis:
- within 9m from the entrance or exit of hospitals (public/private), psychiatric facilities, long-term care homes, independent health facilities
- on outdoor grounds of hospitals (public/private) and psychiatric facilities
- in non-controlled areas in long-term care homes, certain retirement homes, provincially-funded supportive housing, designated psychiatric or veterans’ facilities, and residential hospices
Publicly owned spaces
You will not be able to smoke or vape cannabis in publicly-owned sport fields (not including golf courses), nearby spectator areas and public areas within 20m of these areas.
Vehicles and boats
You will not be able to consume cannabis (smoking, vaping, eating) in a vehicle or boat that is being driven or is at risk of being put into motion.
Other outdoor areas
You will not be able to smoke or vape cannabis:
- in restaurants and on bar patios and public areas within 9m of a patio
- on outdoor grounds of Ontario government office buildings
- in reserved seating areas at outdoor sports and entertainment locations
- grounds of community recreational facilities, and public areas within 20m of those grounds
- in sheltered outdoor areas with a roof and more than two walls which the public or employees frequent, or are invited to (e.g. a bus shelter)
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