By Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Centre Wellington is still open to the possibility of allowing legal retail cannabis stores in the township.
After a regular council meeting Monday evening, councillors moved that staff prepare a report on opting into the province’s cannabis retail program, which would allow cannabis to be sold downtown.
The township initially opted out of allowing retail cannabis stores.
However, not every councillor was convinced this direction was the right one.
“I’ve been doing my own surveys: shopping in Fergus, shopping in Elora,” said Coun. Lisa MacDonald. “I’ve also had consistent feedback from both BIA’s that they don’t want it in their downtown.”
MacDonald feels that the introduction of retail cannabis downtown could impact the township’s tourist season.
“I’ve consulted with other tourist towns that have managed to keep it out of their downtown’s and their tourist areas,” said McDonald. “I know when the law first came into place we were going to have it at the raceway – I think that would’ve been a fabulous location.”
This motion for a staff report is in response to a presentation by John Misfud and Wellington County Coun. Diane Ballantyne in February.
Their unscientific survey of 542 people showed over 82 per cent supported legal cannabis in the municipality.
“Research shows us that regulated cannabis increases the safety of the product, provides equity of access to a legal and regulated product, and it reduces the barriers of access for residents,” said Ballantyne, in April. “So I think that there are a number of reasons why the prohibition on this particular product should end in Centre Wellington.”
MacDonald maintained that she would like more say in designating where cannabis shops can go.
“I really want to consider businesses in this decision,” said MacDonald. “I have heard from other Mayors that (cannabis retail) hasn’t shed a positive light on their downtown cores so just in keeping with businesses I would like their input.”
But Mayor Shawn Watters explained that by allowing staff to create their support, everyone’s perspective would be examined, including business owners.
“This is just a motion to bring it back to staff, this means they’ll be able to look at it in a fuller light,” said Watters. “I think (having staff create a report) is a good place for us to be in right now.”