Councillor John Maloney asked the important question at Committee of the Whole Monday night. Will Smiths Falls get a cannabis store-front this year? Malcolm Morris, who has been involved with provincial negotiations from the beginning, said “no.”
The province is opening 40 store-fronts in 2018 and Smiths Falls won’t be one of them. There will be more over the next couple of years and Smiths Falls “may or may not” get one, Morris said.
When it was decided to legalize cannabis, it was also decided to attach a sales tax with the revenue to go to both federal and provincial governments. 75 cents to the provinces and 25 cents to the federal government. The municipalities, through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), negotiated with the provinces and discussed the split. Of the money earned, provinces would provide $40M to municipalities over two years to cover incremental costs associated with implementation.
Costs would include policing, bylaws, and public health and education; the province would absorb 100 percent of the cost of public education campaigns through health units. There is not yet a blood alcohol equivalent for cannabis as there is for impaired driving, so a standard field sobriety testing approach would be used.
Morris said the $40M is nice but “not enough.” The money is to pay costs so as not to burden local tax payers while the infrastructure is put into place.
“There are a lot of moving parts here,” he said. “We want to make sure costs incurred are covered by the province.”