District left out of cannabis licensing

Sam Odrowski

The province recently announced it will be introducing the next phase of its plan to license private cannabis stores, but entrepreneurs in the Rainy River District are again unable to apply.

Ontario will be conducting a second lottery for 50 private cannabis retail stores with eight of them being located on First Nation reserves.

And while the Rainy River District again has zero chance of securing a licence, there is potential for a dispensary to be opened in Couchiching First Nation.

“Fort Frances could now be a serviced market through this First Nations licensing,” Couchiching FN Coun. Ron Archie said.

“I anticipate there will private entrepreneurs chasing this opportunity now, given the way the government structured it.”

Meanwhile, Fort Frances Coun. Douglas Judson said despite opting in for private cannabis stores within the municipality, he’s upset to see that entrepreneurs who live within the district can’t apply for licences.

“What concerns me is that our district continues to be the poor cousin of the process, in that none of our communities are eligible to receive a store,” he remarked,

Coun. Judson said he’s upset that there won’t be an economic opportunity or a safe and accessible supply of cannabis in the community anytime soon.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General Alexandra Adamo said given the unique geography between cities in the north, the government provided specific allocations to the five largest urban centres that don’t currently have cannabis stores.

These locations include Kenora, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and Timmins.
“Ontario has continued to urge the federal government to take steps to increase the supply available to the legal recreational cannabis market,” Adamo noted.

“The government remains committed to moving to an open allocation of licences, based on market demand, once supply allows.”

Coun. Archie said it isn’t feasible for every community in the province to hold a cannabis license, due to supply issues.

“If you’re going to be opening a bunch of stores and not have product your creating more opportunities for the black market because people are going to start looking their again,” he explained.

Coun. Archie told the Times safety is another primary concern.

“When you’re in an isolated community I’m not sure if it is a good idea to entertain a cannabis store. But certain communities like Couchiching or Fort William, would be positioned to take that opportunity and run with it,” he reasoned.

“Because they’re serving more than just the First Nation market . . . ultimately that is the goal when you’re in business,” Archie added, “It’s not just one minority community, you want to serve everybody in general.”

The Town of Fort Frances received $21,000 for opting in for cannabis retail outlets and Coun. Judson said he hopes to see opportunities arise for all local entrepreneurs in the future.