Getting ready for pot …

CAO Malcolm Morris
Photo credit: Sally Smith
Posted on: August 15, 2018

Sally Smith
editorial@pdgmedia.ca

A lot “needs to be considered” in Smiths Falls before October 17 — the day pot is legalized; that’s only nine weeks away.

CAO Malcolm Morris briefly spoke to council at the end of Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting and said there would be ongoing updates from now on.

A “funding arrangement was developed between Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO): Ontario’s portion of the federal excise duty for the first two years is estimated at $100 million. The province will provide $40 million over two years to all Ontario municipal governments to support implementation costs.

“Half of that will come as soon as possible following Royal Assent for upfront assistance. Funding is allocated on a per household basis to ensure that each municipality receives not less than $10,000.”

Morris’ thinking is that municipalities are “going to incur costs,” and these costs “should not be a cost to taxpayers.

“We don’t know the costs [yet],” he reiterated, but suggested where some of them might be — training of local by-law officers to enforce new by-laws and policies to regulate legalization of recreational cannabis. For instance, nuisance complaints could lead to an odour by-law; dispute mediation between neighbours re consumption; outdoor cultivation re young children and pets; enforcement of Smoke Free Ontario Act.

Another could relate to policing — managing drug impaired driving, plant seizure and identification. Police would also act with the Health Unit to develop education programs.

A third might fall on Public Health relating to parents about the health risks of recreational cannabis. As well enforcement of cannabis consumption in public places will be a Health Unit responsibility, along with the police. The Health Unit doesn’t expect funding to expand enforcement.

Another could be business licensing and planning i.e. the new possibility of private businesses able to sell recreational cannabis. Under consideration could be an increase in economic activity and jobs in the stores’ locations. Requirements to meet zoning, signage, setbacks from schools and daycares and rentals might have to be met.

And yet another could be fires if cannabis is restricted to private dwellings — impacts on indoor air quality, growing up to four plants (moisture, mold, mildew, odour.)

Municipalities could develop policies re consuming cannabis before or at work.

The next 63 days will be crucial to preparing the Town, staff and residents for what’s to come after October 17. Councillor Cummings commented that Smiths Falls is probably “one of the most prepared services in the province” because of the closeness and ongoing Town/Tweed relationship.