It was a whirlwind December and first month in office for newly-elected officials across Ontario’s municipalities, no doubt. Following inaugural meetings, Council Members faced urgent business, important decisions, and a burning question… whether to Opt-In or Opt-Out of allowing cannabis retail locations. The Municipal Affairs Team at Sussex Strategy Group hopes to provide a quick update and overview of what we’ve seen so far, as well as what’s to be expected for municipalities into 2019 and beyond as part of this legalization rollout.
Municipalities and local governments have a chance to greatly impact the overall landscape of cannabis markets by choosing whether to Opt-In or Opt-Out of allowing retail stores within their cities, towns, etc., with a looming deadline set by the Provincial government for January 22, 2018. Those who decide to take the Opt-Out route will lose access to promised provincial funding over the next two years to cover costs related to the legalization rollout, but all is not yet lost – there are opportunities for municipalities to Opt-In down the road.
These Council decisions come at the same time we are seeing further colours and details regarding Cannabis Retail Licensing. On December 13, a statement was released by the Provincial governmentthat advised of changes to the licensing process, citing a national shortage in cannabis supply. This announcement came immediately after both Toronto and Ottawa voted to Opt-In. Prospective cannabis retailers submitted applications online to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and the lottery draw for 25-initial licenses took place last week on January 11, 2019. These 25-initial licenses will likely be distributed as follows:
We are seeing a number of trends emerge, as we keep our finger on the pulse of these decisions.
If there’s one important takeaway message, it’s that January has been an especially busy month for municipalities that still need to take a stance on the cannabis Opt-In or Opt-Out issue. As always, we will continue to regularly monitor all ongoing Council discussions and will continue to see movement right until the deadline, making for an eventful start to the new year and new term of Council across Ontario.