Ontario’s mayors and other municipal leaders recently had their first opportunity to meet their newly minted premier, Doug Ford. Those leaders had two primary concerns.
One of those concerns is the federal legislation on legalizing recreational marijuana across the country. That will take effect in mid-October.
The previous government under premier Kathleen Wynne had planned to sell cannabis in government-run stores. But Doug Ford’s government, in a dramatic turn, said it would allow private retail stores to sell marijuana.
“When cannabis becomes legal in Canada you can expect us to be ready. We will consult with you and even more importantly, we will empower you to get this right.We will be introducing legislation that, if passed, we will give each of you the ultimate say in whether you want physical cannabis retail stores in your communities," Ford told delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
The government would still sell pot online through the Ontario Cannabis Store and that body would also be the wholesaler to private retail.
Retailers would have to follow regulations, including prohibiting the sale of marijuana to anyone under 19. Those that don’t could lose their license.
Opposition politicians argue that the only responsible way to sell pot is through the public sector. Other critics say the model that Ford’s government is adopting is much more difficult to enforce and would be hardly safer than the previous plan under the Liberals.
The other question preying on the minds of municipal leaders was whether they would suffer the same fate as Toronto, in having the size of its city council cut in half
That decision is now before the courts. But Doug Ford reassured them that Toronto’s situation was unique and he had no plans to cut other councils.