Champlain Township has agreed to having cannabis retail stores within the municipality. Councillors voted to “opt in,” joining Hawkesbury and The Nation in saying yes to the possibility of cannabis retail shops being located here in the future.

At the January 15 council meeting, Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel reminded council that there were only 25 licences being awarded. (On January 11, 25 of more than 19,000 submissions were given approval by the Liquor and Gaming Commission of Ontario to apply for a licence to open a cannabis retail store.) Companies which were selected had five business days to file applications, along with a $6,000 fee and a $50,000 letter of credit.

You can view the selected 25 applicants, and the wait-list, here.

But a few Champlain councillors felt conflicted about the move. Before the vote, there was some discussion and West Hawkesbury ward councillor Sarah Bigelow was the first to express her views.

“I’ve been struggling with this,” she said. “I have done a lot of research and asked 107 people in my riding and it is about 50-50. As a mom of young kids, my first instinct is to say no. I would rather have a Tim Hortons than a cannabis store, for example, beside The Review. But I’m also in the business of bringing business to town,” Bigelow said.

Vankleek Hill ward councillor Peter Barton also expressed feeling conflicted about the move.

“I struggled with this too. I have kids and I am not a recreational cannabis user. But it can be legally purchased and I do support small business. I do not support people leaving our community to buy it in Hawkesbury. As a further point, I think there should be funding to help with the after-effects,” Barton said.

West Hawkesbury ward councillor Gerry Miner voiced his views about cannabis retail shops, mentioning that the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) store is just a few streets away from the town’s Main Street.

Miner said how hard it would be for someone with a drinking problem to live close to an LCBO outlet.

Adding that it would not be good to have a prejudice against cannabis retail because it has (previously) been illegal, Miner said, “It’s really not our decision. I think we have to live with it.”

“We know it’s not going to affect us right away and it has to be in a place zoned to do business, so I will support it,” said Miner.

Riopel pointed out that it would be possible to opt in at a later date, but that if council did that, it would not be eligible for a revenue share of the tax generated by cannabis sales.

Longueuil ward councillor Violaine Tittley said she had contacted a school principal to discuss the issue.

“It is a lot of responsibility to educate our citizens and our youth,” Tittley said.