Sarnia, Ontario Mayoral and City Council Candidates Speak Up for Cannabis

In a mere few weeks, municipalities across Canada will be forced to tackle the issue of the federal legalization of cannabis, and it seems as though while many aren’t opposed to it, they feel completely unprepared for the social, cultural and economic shift that legal cannabis will bring.

CannaWrite’s team had the opportunity to attend the mayoral and city counsellor candidate meet and greet in Sarnia, Ontario, a small city in SouthWestern Ontario between London and Windsor. Sarnia has always been known to be somewhat complacent, with the current mayor Mike Bradley occupying the seat as mayor for over 30 years. An industrial town of about 75,000, Sarnia is a lovely place to live and bring up a family, but has its fair share of poverty, mental health and addictions issue that plagues it.

We went to the event to test the waters for how municipalities would support legal cannabis’ shift. Our question for the candidates were simple, “Will you support Sarnia having legal cannabis stores?” Here’s what a few candidates had to say:

Are They Educated Enough?

Anne Marie Gillis has been Mike Bradley’s challenge and opponent for a while now, and is coming out for a campaign of her own to hold the seat as Sarnia’s mayor. When asked about her positions, she was all for allowing stores to operate within Sarnia. She pointed out the important points of why exclude Sarnia from something that is federally legalized, and draw the border at the surrounding towns like Corunna and Petrolia.

She seemed to be a bit behind on the recent Ontario news, not recognizing at first that Ontario had moved away from the LCBO model of implementation in favour of privatization of legal cannabis stores. She didn’t really have much to say on the issue but had very much of a “yes, I’ll support it attitude.” I guess that’s a win for a new mayoral candidate.

Ready to Blaze Trails

Most impressive was current city counsellor Brian White, whose campaign cards exclusively included a priority to “carefully support the City through the culture shift and the many tiers of legislation involved in the legalization of cannabis, which is happening fast.”

We engaged in a thoughtful conversation that made it apparent that Ontario isn’t ready for cannabis legalization, but that he as a city counsellor would take the reigns by building a Task Force to deal with the implementation that would truly ready the city for legalization.

He cited many issues like public consumption, law enforcement, driving, and how to implement the applications and licencing procedures within the city. He was positive and “pragmatic” as he quoted the importance of creating jobs in new industries and the positive tax revenues for municipalities as benefits.

A Surprising Advocate

Finally, we talked to the current Mayor Mike Bradley. We didn’t know what to expect as we didn’t know Sarnia to be an overly progressive city in his time, although a generally well-run city.

“Mr. Bradley, what is your opinion on the legalization of cannabis for Sarnia?” we humbly asked, “Well, I’m not too happy about it,” he said. we looked at him curiously, “Let me clarify that statement.” He went on to discuss how the 11th hour implementation of Ontario’s regulations for legal cannabis retail have been so delayed that it could pose a problem. CannaWrite agreed.

He reminded us that he had been involved in asking for pardons for small possession convictions for cannabis and that he is completely in favour of the legalization of cannabis, especially now that the idea of the Ontario Cannabis Stores was squashed, “Because we wouldn’t get anything,” he said.  

He anticipates that he will get many applications for licenses.

Mr. Bradley was concerned about the abuse of cannabis, and rightfully so, as well as the potential abuse of the advantages of a license by store owners; also rightfully so. This highlighted the utmost need for cannabis industry professionals to stick to tight standard operation procedures and compliance regulations both within their applications and operations process should they be authorized to sell cannabis. While we thought he took an overall punitive approach to how to regulate cannabis, we saw Mr. Bradley as a positive force and a collaborator towards this new shift across Canada. We were pleasantly surprised.

Sarnia’s Time to Shine The Light on Cannabis

Will Sarnia thrive with legal cannabis? Yes. For as long as I have known this town, it’s been stagnant, and can benefit from a new industry that will bring jobs, revenue, and tax benefits into a town that can always need improvement. With Sarnia, education about safe consumption is key as substance abuse has been a long-standing problem within the city. All candidates we talked to seemed to agree that education would be the way to go.

CannaWrite recommends that Sarnia’s city counsellors and mayoral candidates begin pulling together a local Retail Cannabis Task Force that doesn’t just include city counsellors, but educators, cannabis industry professionals, representatives of regulated industries, and citizens of the great town. Cannabis is not owned by the government, but all people.

If done proactively and correctly, and in collaboration with the cannabis professionals that already exist within this town, Sarnia may just be able to model the way in the implementation of recreational cannabis for small-town Ontario and Canada.