After more than 8 hours of listening to delegates and debating the future of pot shops in Hamilton, Council voted 7-6 at the general issues committee meeting to “opt-out” of licensed cannabis stores after city staff recommended to “opt-in”. But three councillors (Judi Partridge, Brenda Johnson and Nrinder Nann) were not present for the vote and it’s unclear if they are “for” or “against” retail pot shops.
Council then voted 7-6 to defer a final decision to January 14th. Council still has to ratify the deferral at a Wednesday Council Meeting. If a final vote is pushed to January, council says they will consult with the public and gather more opinions.
The city has until January 22nd to inform the Province if it wishes to opt-out of allowing cannabis retail stores. If on January 14th Council votes in favour of opting-in, it cannot change it’s mind later. However, if the City goes forward with opting-out it can choose to opt-in at a later date.
In any event, city staff says Hamilton will get $574,493 to cover legalization costs. If they opt-in there’s another $15 million dollars on the table that would be divided proportionally only to municipalities that are moving forward with licensing private cannabis stores. The staff report also states if the Provincial share of the Federal Excise Tax over the first two years exceeds $100 million, the Province will provide 50% of the surplus to municipalities that opt-in.
Councillor Sam Merulla suggests the city opt-out of pot dispensaries until “a sustainable revenue-sharing formula is established between the Province of Ontario and the City of Hamilton”. Merulla wants to negotiate a better financial deal with the Province.
Those against the pot shops are concerned that the costs outweigh the revenue as well as the proximity of shops to schools. Those in favour of the stores spoke about increased employment opportunities, commercial tax dollars, and driving out the black market.