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Burton talks cannabis shops

Our latest in a returning series on Oakville's mayor since 2006
Ontario Cannabis Store
Ontario Cannabis Store

With legal cannabis supply eating into illegal dealers’ profits (legal sales passed illegal for the first time last year), making it easier for people to buy quality-controlled clean cannabis on proof of age would seem to have been successful.

Yet Oakville has held off on allowing cannabis retail. 

The Globe and Mail's recent livability ranking gave points to communities for cannabis retail outlets, on the grounds that it was a kind of proxy for openness to varied leisure pursuits. This was one of the reasons for Oakville coming in behind Burlington on the list.

Asked why Oakville remains without such outlets, Burton again points to resident demand: there is not an outcry to do it, so we haven’t done it.

"I hear from more people who don’t want it than do," he said.

If or when we do, he stresses, we will have no say over where the shops locate. The only limit is that they must be 150 steps from schools—a provincial, not municipal regulation.

Given that most people don’t even vote municipally, and cannabis users are a minority, the lack of pressure on the topic probably indicates rather that most people haven’t really bent their minds to the issue. We have a feeling that if they did, they would support legal outlets. 

Like the free transit issue, we think this may be indicative of an approach to local government as poll or advocacy driven. Unless there is an issue in their neighbourhood, very few people follow the goings on at town council.

Indeed, those who do, when the issue is not hyper local, are unusual. There is no guarantee they are representative of what most residents would want if they did take the time to properly consider an issue like cannabis shops. 

Isn’t that why we elect people: to bend their minds to issues like this for us? To do what’s right, even when there is no political benefit? This is one area where Council can lead, rather than simply manage, or follow the disengaged community. (See also our article on Mississauga's recent decision to permit legal cannabis retail outlets.)

What do you think? Make a comment below or email us at [email protected].

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