Since the legalization of cannabis in Canada, all but two municipalities in Wellington County have opted in with cannabis retail: Centre Wellington and Mapleton.
In January of 2018, municipalities had to decide whether to opt in or opt out of cannabis retail. Once opted in, municipalities were told they could not opt out.
The Townships of Guelph/Eramosa, Puslinch, Wellington North, and the Town of Minto have opted in since 2019, and just recently, Erin council unanimously opted in to having cannabis retail stores in the town.
However, two municipalities still have not done so.
In 2018, the Township of Centre Wellington published a news release stating that council has decided to opt out because it’s not confident in allowing cannabis retail storefronts within its municipal boundary.
Mayor Kelly Linton explained that storefronts will likely require additional bylaws, which in turn increases taxes; “we are not prepared at this time to offset this onto our tax base,” he said at the time.
Still, with the change of the times, Centre Wellington council is standing ground with its decision.
For Coun. Steven VanLeeuwen, he personally does not see a future with the retail stores in Centre Wellington.
“I personally am not in favour of recreational cannabis, especially with regards to stores,” VanLeeuwen said in an interview with EloraFergusToday.
“When you look at some of the effects of cannabis on young people, especially when they’re still in their physical and mental development stages, cannabis can be very harmful. I just don’t see the value in something like that in Centre Wellington.”
Much like VanLeeuwen, Coun. Bob Foster still feels the same way as he did back in 2018, citing the Medical Officer of Health for the negative effects of marijuana among youth.
“I’m against cannabis retail stores solely because of the negative effects of marijuana among teenagers and youth,” said Foster.
"I had two close friends in high school who were heavy users of recreational marijuana, who in their 30s were diagnosed with schizophrenia. One of them ended up in the streets, but both eventually died. So, I'm very against recreational marijuana among young people."
Foster explained he is in favour of it for medicinal purposes as it gives a lot of benefits to those suffering from PTSD, cancer, pain, and all these other medical reasons.
"There used to be a time when it wasn’t legal where you can get marijuana through your doctor and I think we should go back to that, to be honest with you,” Foster said.
In a report published by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, using weed regularly before the brain is fully developed, which happens at the age of 25, can affect memory, thinking and attention.
Some harms from using weed at a young age may never go away. This is especially true when people start using weed as a teenager; have used weed every day or almost every day; and have been using it for a long time.
The risks of addiction, mental health issues and lung damage are also greater in young people, the report states.
Due to this, VanLeeuwen and Foster do not see a future of cannabis retail stores in Centre Wellington.
Mayor Gregg Davidson of Mapleton feels the same way as both councilors.
“Council chose back in 2019 not to opt in for cannabis stores; future councils may make different decisions but this council unanimously opted out,” Davidson said in an interview.
“I don’t see this changing unless a councilor brings up the decision in a notice of motion, or someone from the public requests for a delegation.”
Angelica Babiera, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com