The next city council Sarnians elect on Oct. 22 will decide whether residents can buy recreational marijuana from private, local retail stores.
Which is why Coun. Cindy Scholten is calling on the 40 candidates seeking a seat on council show their hand on the issue.
“Candidates, I feel, are being very quiet about this online,” said Scholten, who isn’t seeking re-election and supports private sales.
“I’m worried because I don’t want to see the new council stall or be old fashioned and closed-minded and miss this opportunity for Sarnia. Are they willing to take risks? Are they willing to stay ahead of the curve?”
Council recently acted on Scholten’s request and directed city staff to prepare a report on the advantages and disadvantages of “opting out” of the Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, expected to become law in April.
Staff will also launch an online public consultation process to test the public appetite for private sales, and survey local
businesses and public health officials.
The Ford government has said it wants to allow private retailers to sell pot with government licenses, but will allow municipalities to “opt out” of private sales, leaving only online government sales.
Scholten believes taking advantage of a $2-billion cannabis industry is the right move for Sarnia and a great opportunity for the local private sector.
She believes the legalized sale of safe and federally regulated cannabis could create hundreds of jobs.
“The provincial government is sending a mixed message, (saying) ‘We think it’s a good thing to do so we’re going to let municipalities do it. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to so we’ll give you that small window to opt out,’” Scholten said.
In a report to council she noted there are problems, including the lack of an approved roadside driver test for cannabis impairment and little help for municipalities to prepare.
But Sarnia will make a mistake if it opts out of private retail sales, she added.
“This is going to be a monumental change for all of us across the country. This is going to be so big.”