Muskoka Lakes is saying no to local pot sales.
On Friday, the majority of council voted in favour of banning retail marijuana sales in Muskoka Lakes, despite a recent local survey in which many residents supported opting in. In a previous interview with the MyMuskokaNow.com Newsroom, new Mayor Phil Harding suggested he and council were concerned with the province’s lack of rules surrounding marijuana use and sales.
“We’re not sure the province has all the rules and regulations in place,” said Harding. “[We’re] putting a bit of a pause to make sure the province gets it right and make sure we get it right. If we ‘opt-in’ as they say, there’s never an opportunity to opt-out.”
Harding said that doesn’t mean the door is closed for good for Muskoka Lakes either.
“The general discussion around our committee of the whole was a bit of a pause right now for six months or a year and then re-evaluate,” said Harding. “Hopefully the province gives us the tools to have some greater regulations on the storefronts.”
The opt-out decision means Muskoka Lakes will receive one payment of marijuana-tax funding from the province, but will not receive any further payments until it changes its decision on brick-and-mortar stores. Opting in or out won’t lead to any pot shops opening in Muskoka for the foreseeable future, as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has banned stores in any communities with a population of less than 50,000. The Ford Government has also limited the number of stores opening across the province to 25.
In a public survey released late last year, nearly 70 per cent of respondents in Muskoka Lakes were in support of opting-in for local sales.
Muskoka’s other communities including Bracebridge, Huntsville, Gravenhurst and Georgian Bay Township have all voted to opt-in. Lake of Bays Township is the last Muskoka council to vote on the matter tomorrow, which is also the deadline set by the province to make this decision.