SAULT STE. MARIE — City council has overwhelmingly rejected a motion by Ward 2 Susan Myers opposing any retail cannabis outlet in Sault Ste. Marie.
Ward 3 Councillor Matthew Shoemaker compared the idea to the Prohibition era.
Myers, who's leaving City Council to run this fall for the Algoma District School Board, was the only councillor supporting the idea.
Even her wardmate Sandra Hollingsworth, who seconded the motion, voted against it.
Councillor Hollingsworth, a registered nurse, said she nonetheless has issues with recreational marijuana.
"I do have a concern for our youth, Hollingworth said.
The federal government needs to allow municipalities to play a leading role in ensuring their communities are safe, she said. "I need to trust that our federal government and the right stakeholders and professionals are involved in looking at all impacts."
Councillor Myers said she learned at a private educational workshop provided to councillors in March by the Sault Ste. Marie Area Drug Strategy Committee that marijuana can be a gateway to more dangerous substances.
"This council does not have the legislative authority to prevent the opening of a provincial cannabis store," Myers said.
However, we do have the right to make a statement as to our endorsement or opposition to such. That is what this resolution is about."
"It's still important for City Council to express our opinion on the matter."
"Many communities have gone on record stating they do not want to host a cannabis store," Myers told tonight's meeting.
"Ninety-nine years ago, Sault Ste. Marie voted in a provincial referendum to 'ban the bar' and support a prohibition on the sale of liquor," Councillor Shoemaker said.
At that time, prohibition had wide public approval, but today, it's generally regarded as a mistake, he said.
"Tonight, we're hearing about a different prohibition: a prohibition on the sale of marijuana in Sault Ste. Marie. These arguments are not medical fact-based."
Having the government regulate recreational marijuana use protects the public, ensuring the safety of the product and making sure minors aren't getting it, Shoemaker said.
"We're not in the business in Sault Ste. Marie of regulating morality. We're not the fun police."
The Myers resolution was "far beyond the scope of anything that should be before this council," Shoemaker said.
Ward 5 Councillor Frank Fata was similarly opposed.
"If by some inkling of possibility this thing actually passed, those Saultites that travel to Sudbury every month to go to Costco would probably have to add one more item to their shopping list," Fata said.
"I understand the spirit of the motion," said Mayor Christian Provenzano. "We should be trying to help our youth. But I don't think the motion accomplishes that goal."
"The reality is, there's a massive black market for marijuana....I would be much more comfortable seeing marijuana users get their marijuana from reputable, safe sources, than from the black market."