TORONTO — Fewer than 20 per cent of Ontario’s municipalities have declared themselves unwilling to have cannabis stores within their boundaries, at least for now.
Municipalities had to tell the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario by Tuesday if they were opting out, and the final list posted Wednesday indicates that 77 out of 414 did so. That means that more than 330 municipalities could host pot shops when the first locations open in April.
The opt-outs include small towns and townships as well as the cities of Mississauga, Markham, Pickering, Vaughan and Oakville.
Currently, recreational marijuana can only be bought in Ontario through a government-run website, but 25 entities were selected through an AGCO lottery to apply for retail licences.
Several municipalities that opted out say they want to first see ramifications of retail cannabis elsewhere, and will reconsider allowing store fronts in their own region at a later date.
The province has pledged $40 million over two years to help local governments with the costs of legalization, with each municipality receiving at least $10,000. That is broken up into two payments of $15 million, and $10 million set aside to address costs from “unforeseen circumstances” related to legalization.
A first payment was issued on a per household basis, and the government said Wednesday that its second $15-million payment would go to municipalities by the end of February.
The 77 municipalities that have opted out will get $5,000 each, the government said.
Municipalities are to use their funding on costs directly related to legalization, such as increased enforcement.
If Ontario’s portion of the federal excise tax on recreational marijuana exceeds $100 million over the first two years, the province will also give half of the surplus to municipalities hosting cannabis stores.