City starts drafting rules for private pot shops in Ottawa

Cannabis

The provincial government’s decision this month to allow private pot sales has city officials rushing to create new rules to regulate cannabis retailers in the nation’s capital.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jim Watson directed city staff “to take all the necessary steps” to prepare for the legalization of cannabis. Some of the issues expected to arise include zoning, enforcement, licensing and where private pot stores will be allowed to be located.

Staff will also make recommendations to the new council – which will take office on Dec. 1, following this fall’s election – on the feasibility and implications of prohibiting cannabis storefronts altogether. The province is giving municipalities a one-time opportunity to “opt out” of permitting physical stores within their boundaries, although residents would still be able to purchase pot online.

Earlier this month, the provincial government reversed the decision of the previous Liberal administration and said a "tightly regulated" private retail model will be in place by April 1, 2019.

A government agency called the Ontario Cannabis Store will sell pot online once it is legalized on Oct. 17 and also be the wholesaler to private retail stores.

Given the “short” timelines, the city says it’s planning online surveys and other public consultations to gather feedback from Ottawa residents.