Deadlines near for Sarnia, Grand Bend pot shop applications

Proposed Sarnia pot shop location on Lambton Mall Road (BlackburnNews.com photo by Dave Dentinger)

Applications are pending for what would be Sarnia-Lambton’s first two provincially approved and regulated pot stores.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) website shows applications in progress in Sarnia and Grand Bend.

Natures Buds is looking to set up shop in vacant space at 1362 Lambton Mall Road, Unit 20, while the Bend Cannabis Co. has submitted an application for a cannabis retail store at 19 Main Street, Grand Bend.

Sarnia pot shop notice on door at 1362 Lambton Mall Road (BlackburnNews.com photo by Dave Dentinger)

Sarnia pot shop notice on door at 1362 Lambton Mall Road (BlackburnNews.com photo by Dave Dentinger)

A notice attached to the door of the proposed Natures Buds shop says the public can comment on the application until May 29. The public notice period ends for the Grand Bend application May 20.

The Doug Ford government announced late last year that it was abandoning its previous lottery system and moving to an open market for retail cannabis stores beginning in January 2020. A temporary cap on the number of private cannabis stores in the province was removed.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the first round of the lottery was a disaster.

“They weren’t making the business case where they were locating, they were simply choosing at whim,” said Bradley. “The whole point of legalization by the Trudeau government was to diminish illegal operations. By not having a shop, it put us in a very awkward situation. Now by having a shop allegedly coming, I think there’s an opportunity now to help diminish the illegal market.”

Mayor Bradley said he thinks the proposed location of the store is a good fit for the area.

“We don’t have zoning control over that particular location or any place they decide to go in the community except if they’re in proximity to schools and daycares. The location is a heavily trafficked commercial area, so it would seem to me the location would work for the company and also work that it’s not close to schools and other operations the government doesn’t want them locating by.”

The mayor said the majority of Ontario municipalities, including Sarnia, voted to allow pot shops but he encourages residents to comment, pro or con, on the Sarnia application by the May 29 deadline.

The AGCO began accepting operator licence applications on January 6, 2020, followed by store authorization applications on March 2, 2020. It expected store authorizations to be issued beginning in April at an initial rate of about 20 per month.

The province said strict rules will apply to keep kids safe and ensure retailers behave with integrity. Regulations will deny licences to anyone with certain cannabis-related offences or any association with organized crime, and require retail managers and employees to complete approved training.

-With files from Stephanie Chaves