Why I voted to opt-in to cannabis retail

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On Monday January 14, 2019 City of Waterloo council unanimously decided to support staff’s recommendation to opt-in to cannabis retail.

Cannabis is already available in our community. Those of age can now purchase recreational cannabis online, following the legalization of cannabis in Canada on October 17, 2018. Cannabis is also already available and being used illegally throughout our community. It’s this last fact that primarily led me to opt-in.

Opting-in will help make our community safer. Waterloo Regional Police Services Chief Brian Larkin emphasized this point when he spoke at council. While some concern has been expressed that the municipality has limited control over cannabis retail, we currently have no control over illegal sales. The availability of recreational cannabis through retail sales, which will be regulated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, means our community will have a better access to a safe supply of this product and its packaging.

Opting-in will also support local research efforts into prevention, education, and awareness about risks related to recreational cannabis use, as well as to identify and address problematic cannabis use. With Conestoga College and University of Waterloo’s Propel Centre for Population Health Research having already started doing research in this area, this community is well-positioned to be research leaders in cannabis research, a field that CTV News reported is growing fast.

These are two key reasons why I voted to opt-in to cannabis retail. My decision was also informed by staff’s opinions of the benefits of allowing cannabis retail stores, a summary of which you can see here.

This was a complex decision and there was no “right” answer. However, I believe the decision to opt-in was the ethical one in that it will do the least harm. Even more, I believe this decision will do some good, too.

Still, there is uncertainty and accompanying discomfort around what the phase-in of cannabis retail stores across Ontario will look like overall, and in our community specifically. Some people also wish we had opted out. I want you to know I hear your concerns, and am open and interested in having an ongoing dialogue with you.

Please feel free to contact me at jen.vasic@waterloo.ca if you would like to talk more about this decision and/or to share your thoughts

Jen Vasic