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Cannabis shops back up for debate at Centre Wellington council

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The future of cannabis stores in Centre Wellington is once again up for debate.

Last December, council deferred a decision on whether pot shops could legally open in the township.

The questions were then sent to an economic advisory committee for further study and deliberation.

According to a report, included in Monday night’s council agenda, the committee: “recognizes the economic opportunities and benefits of retail cannabis stores, however, until the municipality can control the location and number of retail stores, the committee does not support opting in to permitting them at this time.”

The report also included the results of a 2023 public survey where more than 900 residents provided input, and 74 per cent of respondents supporting cannabis stores in Centre Wellington.

On Monday night, council was expected to decide whether they want to allow the stores, or follow the recommendation from the committee and continue the ban.

If council voted to opt-in, municipalities would not be able to go back on their decision and opt-out in the future. Municipalities would also have no control over how many cannabis stores opened up.

Economic impact

In 2021, the average revenue from a cannabis store was about $133,000 a month, according to a previous staff report to Centre Wellington council. Health Canada has also reported that Canadians spend about $65 dollars a month on pot products.

That means residents are spending their money elsewhere, since they can’t buy legal cannabis locally.

John Mifsud, a Fergus resident and cannabis advocate, is cautiously optimistic council will say “yes” to pot shops. If so, he hopes to open his own retail store.

He currently travels about 20 kilometres to Guelph to purchase cannabis, but feels users shouldn’t have to. 

“I’ve spoken to many members of the community who combine shopping trips. So they go to the Walmart that’s right beside the cannabis shop and go to the Home Depot,” Mifsud told CTV News ahead of Monday’s meeting. “Those economic opportunities are being taken away for us.”

He said Centre Wellington needs equitable and responsible access.

“It would be pretty alarming, pretty concerning, if they’re asking for public input and then just decided not to listen to the public,” Mifsud added. “We're the ones that vote them in, not the tourists, not the few business owners that have an issue with it.”

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