Although we probably won’t see any open in our city until 2020
On the evening of Monday, January 14, 2019, Stratford City Council voted unanimously in favour of ‘opting in’ to allow the operation of legal, licensed cannabis retail stores in the Festival City.
But don’t expect cannabis stores to start popping up in Stratford anytime soon.
Four days before Council’s historic vote, the Government of Ontario staged a lottery to award just 25 cannabis retail store licenses from 17,320 candidates across the province.
Round one of the license lottery excluded municipalities with less than 50,000 residents, preventing Stratford would-be-retailers from participating.
The provincial government says it will stick with the 25-store cap on cannabis retailers until December 2019.
It will likely not be until at least 2020 before we see safe, legal cannabis grown by regulated Licensed Producers available for in-person sales at a retail store in Stratford.
Stratford Did Its Homework
Stratford is becoming well known as a city where innovation and new ideas are welcomed and encouraged.
To ensure Council was making a fully-informed decision, City of Stratford staff produced a detailed report outlining the municipal implications for the ‘Opt-In’ and ‘Opt-Out’ options.
The 21-page report included a useful summary:
No one could accuse the city of not doing its due diligence to inform and educate Council, which included reaching out to the community for its input.
Community Consultation Showed High Level of Support
As part of its efforts to make an informed decision, the City of Stratford offered multiple chances for citizens to have a voice on the issue.
People could provide online feedback. The city’s website included a portal for citizens to provide Council with their written feedback.
More than 4:1 in favour of retail cannabis stores. For those keeping score, the feedback included 64 statements in support of cannabis retail stores in Stratford, and 14 comments advising against it.
Here are some un-edited highlights from both sides of the argument (four in favour, and one against, as per the overall ratio of For/Against comments):
For: “To be against this issue is not being progressive. We enjoy this town because it feels like it embraces change and culture.”
“Stratford has shown a willingness in the past to be on the cutting edge of development in many areas. This is another opportunity for the city to establish itself as a leader in a new area.”
“Cannabis is legal and my feeling is yes we should allow Cannabis stores in Stratford. There are good rules around the use of Cannabis which protects young people as it does with alcohol. Better to purchase a safe product as opposed to the street.”
“We believe having a cannabis store in Stratford is a great idea. With the influx of tourists during the summer it makes perfect sense to have a local shop versus having people leave our city and spend their dollars elsewhere.”
Against: “I think that retail cannabis stores should not be allowed in Stratford, first, for health reasons. For decades, smoking has been discouraged in Canada. It seems like opening stores would be encouraging smoking by more people.”
Several “For” comments mentioned GreenSeal Cannabis Co. It was encouraging to see the Stratford community’s awareness and recognition of GreenSeal Cannabis Co. within the comments submitted.
“We have a cannabis producer creating jobs and paying taxes here. It only makes sense to make decisions that produce revenue for the city.”
“Yes Stratford should 100% have a cannabis store as the city allows there to be a grow facility in our business park.”
“Opening a pot dispensary would take tourism to the next level. Stratford has allowed it to be grown here may as well sell it.”
All were invited to attend an Open House
In addition to letting people share their thoughts through the online forum, Stratford citizens were invited to attend an Open House at City Hall.
On hand were representatives from the Perth District Health Unit, Stratford Police Services, Development Services, Housing, and Stratford Fire Department.
The city staff made a presentation summarizing the issues surrounding the topic at hand, including the decisions already made by other Ontario city councils to opt in or out.
A Q&A session followed, where citizens asked some important questions, such as what the extra provincial funding for communities opting in would be used for here (answer: additional police enforcement).
The People Spoke, and Stratford City Council Listened
When Council finally met, the discussion ahead of the vote to opt in or out of cannabis retail stores was brief.
Councillor Bonnie Henderson reminded Council of its limited powers over retail cannabis stores if the decision was made to opt in, “We have no control at all, the only thing we have control over is whether to opt in or opt out and that’s it.”
Councillor Martin Ritsma echoed with his own reservation, “my greatest concern is location.”
The vote was a landslide in favour. Despite the worry over retail store locations, when the Mayor declared it was time to vote, every single councillors’ hand was high in the air to “Opt In.”
One Less Question Mark for GreenSeal Cannabis Co.
The Government of Ontario announced in December it was changing the rules from allowing an unlimited number of retail cannabis stores in the province to only licensing 25 for the time being.
Two words summarize the sole reason for this abrupt about-face:
Ontario isn’t the only province struggling with the supply shortage.
Quebec cut back on the days of operation for its province-run stores.
Alberta put a freeze on opening new stores until further notice.
Even medical cannabis clients have found some products are not available.
We’re focusing on production. For 2019, the growing team here at GreenSeal Cannabis Co. is 100% focused on ramping up production (while maintaining our stringent Quality Assurance standards of course). We’re committed to doing our part in solving the nationwide cannabis shortage.
While the production crew is focusing its energy on growing more cannabis, the management team is carefully considering our options around potentially developing a retail outlet on our Wright Boulevard production site in the future.
Stratford Council’s decision to ‘Opt In’ officially opens the door for our company to establish a factory-outlet style store.
Federal regulations and the Government of Ontario limit Licensed Producers (LPs) to the operation of one, single store, which must be located on the premises of the licensed production facility.
Our choices are on the table. GreenSeal Cannabis Co. is now more fully aware of the possibilities at least. Although it still isn’t clear it would be possible for us to move forward with a retail outlet.
Our leadership team will continue to weigh our options and conduct our own due diligence to see if it makes sense for GreenSeal to sell our product directly to customers via an on-site retail outlet.
Retail Cannabis Stores in Stratford: It’s a Green Light
Whether or not GreenSeal decides to open an on-site factory outlet, it is certainly exciting to know cannabis retails stores will someday be operating in Stratford.
Either way, Stratford’s residents and visitors should be able to choose safe, locally produced GreenSeal Cannabis Co. products through the city’s established retail channels.
Do you have any experience with cannabis retail stores?
Any advice for those who hope to open storefronts in Stratford?
If so, please share in the comments below!