The communities of Cobourg and Port Hope have a combined population of about 35,000 people — well under the threshold of 50,000 needed to qualify for the first round of cannabis stores.
Just 10 minutes apart along Highway 401 in Northumberland County, the towns are in Ontario’s east region for stores. The region, which has six communities that qualify including Ottawa, Barrie, Peterborough and the City of Kawartha Lakes, was awarded five licences.
Despite an online survey that saw Cobourg residents vote overwhelmingly in favour of retail cannabis, the community will have to wait.
“Reminds me of a horse race,” said Cobourg Mayor John Henderson. “All the horses are lined up, but there are too many horses at the gate.”
“In time, they will have start simplistically, and get back to municipalities such as us and tell us what the game plan is moving forward.”
Port Hope council voted to opt in on Tuesday. The community voted 60 per cent in favour of retail cannabis. Council approved the motion unanimously.
“It gives us time to adjust as a smaller community,” said Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson. “We know we have several business people here who want to open a dispensary. We will work with them and the province.”
“In response to the national cannabis shortage, Ontario instituted a temporary cap of 25 retail store authorizations,” stated Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, in an emailed statement to Global News Wednesday.
“However, the government remains committed to moving to an open allocation of store licences to combat the illegal market once we have clarity that there is a sufficient federally regulated supply of cannabis,” added Gray.
Communities had to opt in or out by Jan. 22.
“Municipalities that have not opted out as of Jan. 22, 2019, will receive funding on a per household basis. Municipalities that have opted out will receive only a second $5,000 each,” said Gray.
“If Ontario’s portion of the federal excise duty on recreational cannabis over the first two years of legalization exceeds $100 million, the province will provide 50 per cent of the surplus only to municipalities that have not opted out as of Jan. 22, 2019.”