In an abrupt change of heart that surprised some council members, Point Edward Mayor Bev Hand cast the deciding ballot to keep cannabis retailers out of the village.
“Sorry. You had me (onside) a few hours ago and I flipped,” Hand said to Coun. Larry Gordon following a 3-2 vote on Jan. 8.
Sarnia has said yes to cannabis retailers while its nearest neighbours — Point Edward, St. Clair Township and Plympton-Wyoming — have now all opted out.
Gordon spoke decisively about allowing cannabis stores to open in Point Edward.
“Banning (legal retail sales) within this jurisdiction will have little or no impact on its use,” he said.
But by opting out, the village could encourage people to deal with the black market, he said.
“Whether you agree with it or not, tight government control should make the use of cannabis safer.”
Gordon said a vote for cannabis retailers would also signal Point Edward is open for business.
“I don’t want to be seen as restricting the sale of a legitimate product,” he said. “We can still shield our youth, just as we do with the sale of alcohol.”
Coun. Paul Burgess agreed.
Legal retail will ensure a safer, quality product, he said, noting a recent incident in which three Sarnia high school students were sent to hospital after ingesting a single, illegal gummy bear infused with cannabis.
Coun. Tim Mondoux and Coun. Greg Grimes voted against cannabis retailers.
“Why would we burden ourselves with cannabis stores in Point Edward when we already have the casino?” Mondoux asked.
Grimes noted a survey meant to measure resident support for cannabis stores. In total, 190 residents responded and more than half were opposed.
“I listened to the survey comments and I think we could get along just fine without a cannabis store,” Grimes said.
That left it to the mayor to break the tie.
“I’d rather attract other kinds of business,” Hand said.
Youth frequent many areas of the village including parks, Bridgeview School, early learning centre and bowling alley that shouldn’t have cannabis retail nearby, she said.
“My concern is that the province may not listen to what we have to say about location. If I was guaranteed to have control on location, I would feel more comfortable.”
“So let’s see how it goes,” Hand said. “We can wait and revisit it later.”