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Can a town pass on legal weed stores? Some Richmond Hill councillors hope so

A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Finance says that if a municipality is "not prepared" for a marijuana retail outlet, the province will defer setting up a location. File / Global News

As the rollout looms for marijuana retail sales in Ontario, Richmond Hill councillors are trying to nip things in the bud.

At a committee meeting on Monday, members of council passed a motion to advise the province’s attorney general and local MPPs that the Toronto suburb is “not a willing host of a cannabis retail location.”

Neil Garbe, chief administrative officer for the Town of Richmond Hill, told the Tasha Kheiriddin Show on Thursday that the decision was based on overwhelmingly negative feedback from the public.

Some who spoke out were opposed to legalization in general, he explained, while others expressed concerns over the potential location of stores, keeping children safe, impaired driving and crime.

LISTEN: Neil Garbe joins Tasha Kheiriddin on 640 Toronto

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“It was a whole range of issues people were talking about at our meeting, and before and after the meeting,” Garbe said.

READ MORE: Ontario government outlines first 14 cities to host cannabis shops

The motion, moved by Richmond Hill Mayor Dave Barrow, is on the agenda for the Dec. 11 general meeting of council. If adopted, Garbe said it won’t be enough to prevent marijuana stores from being established within the town — it’s up to the province to decide whether to honour council’s wishes.

WATCH: Ontario unveils the Cannabis Control Board of Ontario 

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Ontario unveils the Cannabis Control Board of Ontario – Sep 8, 2017

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance told 640 Toronto that if a municipality is “not prepared to locate a store, the province will defer locating in that municipality.”

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“As we roll out the next phase of stores, we will continue to engage with municipalities on an ongoing basis including with those municipalities who may not be ready for a store opening in July 2018,” the spokesperson stated.

READ MORE: Ontario introduces marijuana legislation with steep fines for illegal dispensaries

The sale of recreational marijuana in Ontario is being managed through a subsidiary of the Ontario Liquor Control Board, and products will be available through standalone retail stores and online after pot is legalized on July 1.

Within two years of legalization, up to 150 stores are expected to have opened up, with 40 in 2018 and another 80 the following year.

Richmond Hill was not on the list of the first 14 municipalities in Ontario where marijuana stores would be established.

The Ministry of Finance confirms additional municipalities are currently being consulted, however, and the town of Richmond Hill reportedly received a letter about the matter late last month.

READ MORE: Ontario mayors seek advice on pot rules from province ahead of legalization

The province said that engaging with cities and towns on issues related to the marijuana retail rollout is a priority, noting that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario was involved in establishing initial guidelines.

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