By Chris Pickup

Haldimand council voted 5-2 in a recorded vote Monday night to opt in to cannabis retail stores. Councillors John Metcalfe and Dan Lawrence were the two who voted to stay out, at least for now, until more information is available.

As Mayor Hewitt noted Monday night, one of the hardest issues to strip out of the equation is emotion. However, the deliberate or accidental cross-contamination of cannabis in the underground market  “is my biggest fear and I’ m in favour of opting in for that reason alone”.

And the county would “have the advantage of sitting in the cheap seats” as the first 25 stores roll out across Ontario. Changes are continually occurring, he noted, and there will be more fluidity as things go forward.

But It’s not just a matter of rolling a joint, he said. There are a number of other applications.

Hewitt contacted Social Services staff in Norfolk to ask their opinion, and how it affected family and friends, as well as users. Social Services provide the front line service and they support the legal use of cannabis, he said. Oils and extracts are used responsibly medically, replacing some other more serious drugs.

He also spoke to the mayor of Owen Sound. The community chose not to accept alcohol after abolition and was officially ‘dry’ until 1972. That previous decision was an abysmal failure according to the mayor, resulting in an illegal market and the proliferation of bootlegging.

“We should be opting in to get the view from 30,000 feet to see how it will unfold. There will be significant changes,” Hewitt said.

Beyond the retail aspect in the future is marrying the smoking bylaw with recreational marijuana, he added.

The other issue is the growing side of things …. how the county can protect landowners and residential properties along with responsible licensed growers, from the illegal co-ops that become a lot more of a criminal issue.

Expect to see more on that in the future.