LCBO stores in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines could be selling recreational cannabis as early as Oct. 17.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the October date of legalization during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday. This followed the bill to legalize marijuana being passed through the Senate on Tuesday.
The exact location of the two Niagara stores is still being decided upon by the Cannabis Retail Store which falls under the control of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, said Julie Rorison, chief of staff in St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik’s office.
Rorison said that the city asked that it be consulted on the location of the shop.
“As of now, I’m not aware that (the LCBO) has decided on a location,” she said. “The city wanted to be involved and consulted on the location and keeping that away from schools and sensitive areas.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said the city has rejected the first proposed location as it was too close to a residential area, but expects to have a location determined by early July. While nothing is finalized, Diodati said the city hopes to move the store to the tourist district — such as the Victoria Avenue or Clifton Hill region — in order to cater to tourists while still giving Niagara residents access.
On Thursday, Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford said he will consult with his caucus, as well as municipalities, before deciding on any changes to the province’s existing pot plans, reports the Toronto Star. While he generally supports a free market, Ford also said the LCBO has the infrastructure to handle cannabis sales.
A post to the Cannabis Retail Store’s webpage said the location of the stores would take into account the requirement of “protecting youth, providing access within communities, and addressing the illegal market.” The post continued, “When specific store sites are identified a public notice will be posted online on this website and, when possible, at the physical location.”
Diodati said he expects the industry to be “big business,” noting the variety of businesspeople and professionals he saw when he attended the Grow Up Cannabis Conference and Expo, held last October at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls Review reported that the convention attracted more than 4,000 people, which featured more than 90 speakers and dozens of exhibitors.
“This industry is not all that people expect,” said Diodati.
The marijuana industry can benefit Niagara Falls which already has “something for everyone,” said Diodati. Access to legal marijuana was just “one more offering on the buffet” for those considering visiting the falls, he said.
Diodati also said legalization will create challenges for the border, as well as problems with individuals smoking cannabis in public, which will remain illegal.
He said the solution is to create “good awareness and education campaigns.”
Once sales begin, recreational marijuana will be available for anyone 19 or older at The Ontario Cannabis Store, as outlined by Ontario’s cannabis legalization webpage.