Cobourg officially confirms opt-in on cannabis retailing

By Cecilia Nasmith

The vote for the Town of Cobourg to opt into retail cannabis sales was confirmed at council this week, though the four-to-three vote has shifted to a five-to-two majority.

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin changed her vote from last week, largely based on the confirmation that municipalities that did not opt in by Jan. 22 will not be able to participate in the revenue-sharing arrangement announced by the province.

Information on the roll-out has been confusing, so Seguin did her own research and shared with council a document she called a cannabis time-line. It began with the Oct. 19 legalization of the substance and proceeded to the survey the town held to ascertain public thought on opting in. Of 3,458 participants, she reported that 2,714 (or 78.48%) support opting in.

The province is supplying $40-million over the first two years to all municipalities to help with costs associated with the legalization, based on a per-household formula. The first payment would be $11,759 for Cobourg and $51,199 for the County of Northumberland. A second payment will also be made.

The revenue-sharing arrangement is that, if Ontario's portion of the Federal excise duty on recreational cannabis over the first two years of legalization exceeds $100-million, 50% of this surplus will be shared with municipalities that did not opt out by the Jan. 22, 2019, deadline to do so. The earliest such a payment would be made is October 2020.

While the big FSV Pharma plant in Cobourg is expected to set aside space at its site for a medical-marijuana dispensary, only municipalities with populations of 50,000 or more were eligible to participate in a Jan. 11 lottery for the first 25 licenses to operate a retail cannabis store. The results were that five applicants were chosen for the Eastern Ontario region, which is basically east of Durham to the Quebec border.

Though he and Councillor Emily Chorley continued to oppose to motion to bypass the one-time-only opportunity to opt out, Mayor John Henderson commended council on a healthy debate of a challenging topic.