Visiting Minden Hills on March 16, residents would be hard-pressed to know that two storefronts in the township could soon host cannabis retail stores.

You can tell that something is going on at the front of 101 Bobcaygeon Rd., the former Minden Book and Stationary store. There is butcher paper on the window. Step closer and there are two small signs, one in French and one in English, announcing that NORTHERN HIGH has applied to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for a shop.

The sign goes on to tell people a cannabis retail store authorization application may be issued to the applicant unless the Registrar finds it is not in the public interest pursuant to the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018. Matters deemed of public interest, the sign says, are protecting public health and safety; protecting youth and restricting their access to cannabis; and preventing illicit activities in relation to cannabis.

There are details about written submissions, which closed on March 17.

At the other storefront, in the mini-plaza at the Highway 35 and County Road 21 turnoff, Capturing Eden plans to move in but there is nothing evident there at the moment. They’re further along in the process, having had their public notice period close Jan. 26.

While the plans for these stores have not been completely secretive – since notices have been posted, and in the case of Capturing Eden, the owner says they consulted with the township and County – it hasn’t been exactly widely canvassed either.

Many have learned through the gossip mill that is social media.

Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin expressed some frustration that the township initially found out about the two applications because someone stopped and read the notice on the windows. He would have preferred the township be notified directly. That way, he said they could have posted it to their website to allow a more fulsome community discussion that would have allowed more public comment.

He’s not wrong. However, when the County and its four lower-tier municipalities ‘opted in’ to marijuana stores within their boundaries back in the fall and winter of 2018, they seem to have capitulated their rights to the province.

While The Highlander was able to have a good conversation with Capturing Eden about its plans, since there is a Haliburton outlet under local ownership – we have not yet been successful in talking to the person or persons behind NORTHERN HIGH.

There is nothing on the signage to indicate who these people are, or how to contact them. The AGCO would not provide information on them, citing confidentiality. An Internet search did not turn up much. It would be nice if the township could hear from proponents of this particular shop.

Some in the community have also said the townships didn’t get what was on offer, namely LCBOlike treatment of cannabis in the province.

Some would argue it’s all a moot point now, anyway. After all, cannabis became legal across Canada in October, 2018. People can order cannabis products via the mail. Townships have opted in. And, there is already a cannabis products store in Haliburton that seems to fit into the community.

From a provincial standpoint, the only real rules are that outlets must be a minimum 150 metres from schools, which both of these are.

The township will get some funding to offset any costs associated with the stores, but it won’t be much.

So, if you are inclined to take issue with two pot shops coming to Minden, don’t call the township or your councillor to complain. When it comes to the AGCO, you can try Doug Ford government representative, Laurie Scott. As for the feds, it was a Liberal government decision, but you can reach out to Progressive Conservative MP Jamie Schmale.

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