Council votes to allow cannabis shops in Kingston

After a long night and a short debate, Kingston city council gave the green light to allow cannabis retailers to open up shop in the city.

The potential for these budding businesses has been in some cases contentious, with several municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area voting to opt-out of having pot shops within their boundaries.

In Kingston’s case, a survey of citizens showed council there was overwhelming support for the retail locations to come to the city.

Despite the unanimous approval, a number of concerns were raised in the debate, including safety and the proximity of new stores to schools and other vulnerable spaces in the city.

“[I’m] happy that council supported the amendment to ask the province for more control over location, because that’s a big issue,” said Mayor Bryan Paterson after the vote on Tuesday evening.

The mayor also highlighted another concern brought up in council about the possible deleterious effects of having cannabis readily available in the city.

“It was an interesting discussion, certainly about the public health effects, and making sure this is managed well,” Paterson said.

Following an about-face by the P.C. government, which scrapped the previous Liberal plan to open cannabis shops under a different model, individual councils in Ontario had to make a quick decision to opt-in or opt-out of having private retail shops in their city, which will be allowed to open on April 1, 2019.

Jennawae McLean, owner of 420 Kingston head shop in the city, has been counting down to this decision since legalization day.

“For it to pass unanimously is the best way this night could have ended,” McLean said, nearly breaking out into tears of joy after council voted.

GALLERY: Ontario’s retail cannabis lottery

Now, both McLean — who has a retail location already in the works — and council will have to wait and see if Kingston is awarded one of the five shops in this week’s cannabis lottery, which opened earlier this week and closes on Jan. 9. The Ontario government is meant to announce the winners of the lottery sometime in the coming week.

The cannabis retail hopeful says she now has her fingers crossed that her application will be drawn.

— With files from Alexandra Mazur

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