The mayor says he’s disappointed that Bracebridge won’t be part of the first wave of cannabis stores.

That’s Graydon Smith’s reaction to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s list of rules for companies looking to get their name into the pot licence lottery. The stipulations, which were released last week, included limiting the first wave of 25 licences to municipalities with populations over 50,000.

“We planned on being an opt-in community, and we’ll verify that through council in the coming days,” Smith tells MyMuskokaNow.com.

“Beyond that, I think there’s an economic development opportunity that is now being curtailed in our community and other smaller communities that we wanted to be a part of.  We’ve got a grower in our community that was told they could have a licence by virtue of being a grower.  That’s now been suspended too and that’s causing economic development to slow down in Bracebridge, so definitely not in favour of the way this is rolling out,” adds Smith.

Photo of marijuana, supplied

The AGCO’s rules for the lottery break Ontario down into five regions, of which Muskoka is listed as being in the East Region.

Of the first 25 licences, five will be distributed in that East Region, however, the commission has confirmed that the only places eligible for consideration in the lottery are Barrie, Belleville, Kawartha Lakes, Kingston, Ottawa, and Peterborough.

The mayor says there had been some rumours that there was going to be a population requirement for the lottery but that the first big blow was when the lottery system and 25 licence cap was first announced last month.

“If you step back not too far in time there was going to be an unlimited amount of stores allowed, just subject to the licencing provisions, and that it wasn’t a lottery and it wasn’t capped. And then we see the rules, the fact it is so limiting, so clearly going to drive these stores into larger centres where there will be more applicants, it’s disappointing.”

The province has defended limiting the first wave of licences due to the national shortage of cannabis that’s come in the wake of October’s legalization. There are parts of the rollout of legal recreational cannabis that Smith is pleased with though.

“I admire the fact that (the provincial government) wanted to do it through a private retail network. I’ve been making those comments prior to the change in government that I felt that was a better model for economic development in small communities.”

But he is tempering that praise.

“At the same time, there’s been such a number of changes as they’ve gone through the last few months.  It just makes it very hard for anybody to really put their finger on what the rules are, what they can do, when they can do it, and actually let this positive thing for the private sector unfold.”

“I know everyone is keen to realize their objectives, and they want to kill the black market, and they want to provide private business an opportunity, but it’s been confusing so far. That’s the best thing I can call it.”

Looking head Smith says the town will be focused on getting that clarity.

“We’re working to find the answers and hope that they’re stable answers that we can count on to not only inform ourselves but also those in the community that are interested in making investments in Bracebridge.”

In the meantime, the lottery that will decide where the first 25 brick-and-mortar cannabis stores in Ontario will be going will be drawn on Friday while Bracebridge waits for its turn.