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ICYMI: OPINION: Council misses the mark on pot shop vote

Reporter Keegan Kozolanka thinks Centre Wellington council is ignoring its constituents' wishes
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This article was previously published on EloraFergusToday.

Keegan Kozolanka covers Wellington County for EloraFergusToday.

Centre Wellington council got it wrong when it decided to continue with the township’s prohibition on cannabis retail stores. 

The problem is, this does nothing to stop black market sales or keep it out of the hands of youth and punishes adults who want to purchase a legal product without having to drive to Arthur, Guelph or Kitchener to do so. 

Imagine the uproar if people had to do that for a bottle of wine.

It was about six years ago when cities started to either opt-in or out of retail cannabis.

Municipal councils had to make a decision by Jan. 22, 2019 on whether they were going to allow cannabis stores or not. Once municipalities opt-in, there is no going back.

The hesitation was understandable back then because we simply did not know what was going to happen. Municipalities had no real control beyond being a commenting agency on applications and the 150-metre buffer zone near schools where they aren’t allowed.

Centre Wellington council at the time was one that chose to opt out in a 4-3 vote in December 2018.

This was despite a survey showing a majority of respondents, 64 per cent of 1,600, were in support of retail cannabis. 

The most recent vote, which was 5-2 to stay pot shop-free, goes against another survey that showed an increased support for cannabis stores with 74 per cent of 913 respondents supportive. 

So why go against what residents obviously want and with what we now know now about retail cannabis has rolled out? 

Municipalities that opted-in have not turned into Sodom and Gomorrah because people can buy weed at a store.

Sure, it may seem like there’s a lot of them when you go to larger cities but we’re already seeing the signs that it won’t be the case in Fergus and Elora. 

The Town of Erin, whose council opted-in to retail cannabis after being one that originally opted out, has three cannabis shops. 

With the limited commercial vacancy that exists in Centre Wellington, surely there wouldn’t be much more than that. 

Some councillors brought up the impact cannabis has on young people, an argument that holds little water. 

Cannabis stores are highly regulated, you can’t see products from the street and at most you can’t take more than a few steps in without showing someone an ID. 

You know who isn’t checking IDs? The local weed dealer.

Ask any teen at Centre Wellington District High School, they’d probably tell you it’s a lot easier for them to get cannabis than it is to get alcohol. 

That dealer will also remain in business because getting to them doesn’t require a 30 minute drive. 

Given the choice, most people prefer a safer, convenient and legal option. 

While councillors may lament the lack of oversight the municipality has over cannabis stores, staying (legal) pot-free out means Centre Wellington council has resigned itself to having no control over cannabis sales in town.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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