City council, not administration, will deal with proposed cannabis locations

City administration will no longer be in charge of submitting reports to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) about proposed cannabis locations in Windsor without input from council.

Instead, city council will review reports put together by administration pertaining to cannabis retail stores before such reports are submitted to the province. 

A motion to remove authority previously delegated to city administration through a bylaw passed in January was brought forward by Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin at Monday evening’s council meeting. Councillors voted unanimously in favour of Bortolin’s motion.

Council’s new position on the issue comes in the wake of a report submitted by city administration to the AGCO, in which administration stated the city opposed a cannabis retail outlet proposed for 545 Ouellette Ave. 

“Simply put, they made a mistake, and in future considerations of applications coming forward, we wanted to make sure that any comments and things like this would go to council before they were sent to the province,” said Bortolin. 

Windsor Ward 3 Coun. Rino Bortolin says city administration made a mistake when they submitted a report to the AGCO stating that Windsor opposes the proposed 545 Ouellette Ave. cannabis retail store location. (Jason Viau/CBC)

When Windsor opted in to allow cannabis stores to open up shop in the city, city council delegated authority to deal with concerns about locations to city administration.

However, Ward 9 Coun. Kieran McKenzie said the original motion to delegate authority didn’t fully outline what would warrant the city not approving a location. 

“It was surprising administration would have taken the position that they did … there was discussion about a 500-metre boundary away from schools, places where folks could be at risk. We realized in the debate that came out that there literally would be no location in the city of Windsor where you could locate one of these facilities,” said McKenzie. 

According to McKenzie, the position that administration took didn’t match what city council wanted. 

Windsor Ward 9 Coun. Kieran McKenzie says a report submitted to the AGCO on behalf of city administration didn’t align with council’s desires. (Jason Viau/CBC)

“Some folks were a little bit confused with respect to the position and action that our administration took in articulating their disapproval of a cannabis location at the proposed site,” said McKenzie.

The new rules don’t take away authority from city administration to put together such reports, nor does it prevent organizations like Windsor Police Service and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) from providing comment and perspective on proposed cannabis retail outlets.

“The only thing that’s changed from the previous motion is that we have removed the delegation of authority to staff, and we now have taken back that responsibility to make sure that everything goes through council before it’s sent to the province,” said Bortolin. 

Letter only one component of AGCO decision

McKenzie said the letter sent by city planner Thom Hunt opposing the location on Ouellette Avenue is not the “be all and end all,” and that the AGCO knows it’s not necessarily the stance the broader community is taking on the location.

“It’s a component of the decision-making process … I don’t know if [the location] will be approved or not, but the province is aware there’s a broader discussion around this,” said McKenzie, who does support the proposed location. 

There’s no way to take back the letter, but McKenzie said city council has ensured the AGCO knows the letter isn’t the full story.