Thanks to two local research firms, St. Catharines councillors will have comprehensive data on which to base their decision about the retail sale of marijuana.
Robert Lytle from rel8ed.to has teamed up with Mick Higgins and Keith Thompson from Caddle Inc., bringing together the resources of both Innovate Niagara companies, to develop a report advising city council on pros and cons of allowing cannabis shops to open in the Garden City.
Lytle said staff from the two companies were considering researching the topic, and discussed it via social media.
"We decided that if we're really going to do this, let's do a research project together," he said.
Lytle they also needed a forum in which to present their recommendations and supporting data.
He contacted St. Catharines economic development director Brian York.
York said he asked Lytle to appear as a delegate at the Jan. 14 meeting when council is expected to make its decision regarding cannabis stores. The province has given municipalities a deadline of Jan. 22 to opt out of permitting them within their boundaries.
"I think it helps council to have a more informed decision, when you have the statistical analysis behind it and the work that they do," York said.
That information, he added, will complement a report being developed by city staff based on public opinion surveys and an open house on the topic that took place last week.
"Ultimately, it's a council decision. Our staff report will help inform them and so will the delegations to council," York said.
Lytle said city councillors have to be in a position to make a decision on the issue, and "if the only input they have is the loudest and most boisterous voices, and not a lot of contemplative thinking back and forth, they're missing the chance."
He said he's looking forward to seeing the results of his team's work, as staff from the two companies are continuing to put together their research.
"It'll be interesting to see what we end up with, if we come with one recommendation or two," Lytle said. "The fact that we can go and have some backup when we speak about it, I think lets us do our part as folks who care about the issue."
Lytle's firm will contribute research from its existing business database, including more than 1,200 Canadian companies related to the cannabis industry, while also reaching out to other businesses.
"We do business to business (research)," he said. "We're dipping into the data we've already gathered and put together and comparing it to research."
Higgins and Thompson plan to gauge public opinion about cannabis stores, locally and across the province, to allow comparisons to be made with other communities.
Thompson invited people to downloaded the free Caddle: Cash Back Rebates app for mobile devices, to have their say about marijuana shops and participate in other surveys, while offering financial incentives to do so.
Lytle said combining his data with the Caddle research "is going to be critical."
"We typically deal with companies. They typically deal with consumers," he said. "When we can connect them together, that's where it falls into place."
Despite a recent announcement from the provincial government to limit the initial number of cannabis stores to 25 to be opened on April 1, York said if St. Catharines or another Niagara community chooses to host a site, he's confident one of those stores will be located within the region.
905-225-1629 | @abenner1
905-225-1629 | @abenner1