Kincardine council on board to host retail cannabis stores



By Barb McKay


Kincardine council unanimously voted to opt in to host private retail cannabis stores, but it could be some time before one actually opens in the municipality.


The Ontario government is giving municipalities a one-time opportunity to opt out of having private retail sales of cannabis in their communities. Those who choose to allow retail stores to open in their municipalities cannot change their minds later on. The deadline to opt out is Jan. 22.


The Municipality of Kincardine is home to one licenced cannabis producer – 7ACRES – and another company, Grey Bruce Farms Inc., which is working towards obtaining a licence to produce.


During its meeting on Dec. 19, council was presented with a report regarding the retail sale of cannabis and the regulations involved. Municipal CAO Sharon Chambers said the municipality is in a unique situation in that it hosts a large cannabis producer, but if council chooses to opt out the municipality would still have to deal with legalization issues such as policies around cannabis use in the workplace an on municipal policy.


“I think we’d be tremendous hypocrites if we didn’t allow a bricks and mortar store in Kincardine,” said Councillor Laura Haight.


Deputy Mayor Marie Wilson said the Kincardine BIA board recently passed a motion in support of having private retail cannabis stores in Kincardine and offered to work with municipal staff to develop a policy.


“It’s good that we know how other retailers feel about this and I will support it because we shouldn’t interfere with the business enterprise of something that is completely legal.”


There is a caveat, however. Until there is a more reliable supply of cannabis from licenced producers, only 25 private retail stores will be approved in the province of Ontario. In order to be eligible, municipalities must have a population greater than 50,000 and municipalities that apply will be chosen through a lottery.


Licenced cannabis producers can have one retail outlet at one facility. 7ACRES General Manager Ram Davloor was at the Dec. 19 council meeting and said that is an option the company has considered, but it is not a priority at this point. 7ACRES is more focused on growing its facility.


Since opening in 2014 at the Bruce Energy Centre, 7ACRES has grown considerably. By the end of this year, Davloor said the company expects to employ 600 people making it one of the top three employers in the region. It will also become one of the top licenced producers of recreational cannabis in Canada, with contracts to supply seven provinces. 7ACRES is expanding its facility by adding another building. It will have 30 licenced rooms by the end of 2019.


Davloor said the company invests $70,000 annually in community events and organizations in Kincardine.


“We would not have gotten the licence if not for the support of the community and that is why it is important to invest back in the community,” Davloor said.


While it is not yet known if 7ACRES will open a retail store at its site, Davloor said the company fully supports private retail stores because it is one way to curb sales of cannabis on the black market. He urged Kincardine council to opt in as a host municipality.


Councillor Gerry Glover said it will be important to create policies that ensure the protection of minors in the communities. He asked Davloor what 7ACRES is or would be willing to fund educational initiatives that would prevent young people from using cannabis.


Davloor said the company is partnering with another organization for an educational tour, with events in Port Elgin, Owen Sound and Orangeville.


Councillor Randy Roppel said with the legalization of recreational cannabis, the federal and provincial governments should share the responsibility to fund education around youth and cannabis use and the onus should not be all placed on producers.


Debbie Howlett, co-founder and director of Grey Bruce Farms Inc., was also at the council meeting and talked about her company’s plans for its 15,000-square-foot facility on Bruce Road 20. She said the facility has a showroom that could easily be converted into a retail storefront.


Grey Bruce Farms Inc. will be a small boutique producer.


“If we didn’t have a retail store at our facility, people in the’ community would have to go out of town to buy our product,” Howlett said.


She added the company hopes to obtain a licence to produce from Health Canada in the near future.