Justice Minister responds to concerns about cannabis outlets

PORT HAWKESBURY: Town councillors are disappointed with the lack of consideration given to the Strait area as a site for the legal sale of cannabis.

At the Town of Port Hawkesbury Council’s regular meeting on April 3, councillors shared a letter from Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mark Furey explaining the government’s selection of the nine sites where legalized cannabis will be sold in the province. In February, town council sent a letter to the minister to ask why none of the legal retail sites are located in the Strait area.

“The nine locations are in population hubs across the province. Selling cannabis in these stores will enable us to serve a large majority of the population,” Furey wrote. “We also had to consider which stores were best positioned to be renovated in a cost-effective and timely manner to meet the federal deadline of summer 2018.”

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Furey pointed out that Nova Scotians can also access recreational cannabis by ordering it on-line and having it delivered to their homes, or by growing the product for their own consumption.

“We may consider additional locations in the future when we have a better understanding of the marketplace,” said Furey.

The minister’s response left some unanswered questions for council members. Deputy mayor Hughie MacDougall reiterated his concern that the lack of access to legal sales outlets between New Glasgow and Sydney will encourage illegal distribution.

“What’s to stop them from going to new Glasgow and coming back here and selling it?” he said.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda-Chisholm Beaton told The Reporter many councillors had anticipated the minister’s response.

“I guess we were hoping there were some future plans for the Strait area. I guess we’re a little disappointed that there aren’t,” she said.

Chisholm-Beaton also expressed disappointment that the Town of Port Hawkesbury and the Town of Antigonish were not considered among the “population hubs” referenced in the letter.

“We make up the main economic hubs or service centres of the Strait area. I’m just not sure what kind of measuring stick he’s using with regard to that reference,” she said.

Chisholm-Beaton said council may request further consideration in the future for a sales location in the Strait area, but there are no immediate plans to do so.

“We do understand that it is such a new thing and there will probably be some growing pains and maybe some reconfigurations that will occur as a result of what that first year pilot is going to look like,” she said. “We’re hoping that the Strait area isn’t going to get lost in the shuffle.”

In the meantime, she says the town will be reviewing its policies in preparation for legalized recreational cannabis use.

“It is something that will probably be addressed in our By-laws and Policies Advisory Committee… and probably recommendations from that committee will come to council,” she said. “I do feel that people have to be prepared in the municipality with regard to the legalization of cannabis. We don’t have a plan written out, per se, right now, but that’s something that’s definitely on our radar.”