Mayor Shawn Pankow, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada

Did it for Love of Community -Mayor Shawn Pankow


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The story of the small Ontario town that was saved by cannabis is known around the world. In our cover, we set out to tell you the ‘why’.

Shawn Pankow who is the current Mayor of Smiths Falls Mayor listed increased job creation, drastic reduction in crime rate, unprecedented infrastructural and industrial developments as well as improved housing units as some of the developmental outcomes of the federal legalization of cannabis in his municipality.

Since granting an early license to a group of renegade entrepreneurs about 7 years ago, that decision has propelled not only the Canadian Cannabis Industry and marketplace, but arguably the world market of cannabis. There is a direct line that can be drawn to what happened in 2013 in Smiths Falls and what is happening globally in 2020 (Covid-19 included).

In what can be described as a stewardship account of his administration thus far, Pankow revealed that his concerns since assuming office were to create more job opportunities and revamp the local economy. In view of this, he admitted that the cannabis industry has played a huge role in bringing his vision into reality.

According to a 2011 census, the population figures of the Eastern Ontario municipal was put at 8,978 making it one of the least populated municipals to be incorporated in the province of Ontario. Municipal and community governments throughout Canada did converge last year to decide if they would issue a license to retail cannabis stores and dispensaries within their municipalities and provinces. The deliberation saw most authorities refusing to give their approval while others welcomed the initiative and are also offering their support to retailers.As small as the municipal is, Smiths Falls, was among the first to play host to licensed producers of cannabis in the country.

The Mayor admitted that when cannabis producers first checked into the community, they were not looking for it. However, since they were “open for businesses, and actively pursuing opportunities for expansion,” Mayor Shawn says they warmly welcomed them. In his words,

“When producers first came into the community, it was a new topic; it was something we had not anticipated but it’s been encouraging, They tried to bring a lot of credibility and it didn’t take long for us to trust that this is a legitimate group of people who are recognizing a change in landscape, health care,and then would be licensed producers.” So, it was seen as an unplanned blessing for township.

How Residents of Smiths Falls Benefit from This Opportunity

While admitting that the socio-economic growth of the community is still at its early stage, Mayor Pankow explained that the influx of licensed cannabis producers into the municipal has brought so many community development projects and opportunities that have left investors in a shortage of labour. Since the development commenced a year ago, the Mayor revealed that several spin-offs such as restaurants, buildings, construction industries, etc. have started evolving and in no distant time, Smith Falls has become a job haven for job seekers in Ontario and beyond. This was a municipal having at least 180 of its vibrant youths unemployed some two years’ back.

“We have buildings which were previously vacant but by now occupied. So, there are a lot of projects to create new commercial space, new residential space like adding development. We’re also seeing construction industries, and seeing people who are working as construction interns. We see other businesses expand. We’re hearing from more business owners saying they are now having difficult times finding labor.”

He also added that with the legalization of Cannabis in Canada, there has been a significant reduction in crime rates in Smiths Falls because more people are now seriously engaged with work. This is in contrast with the negative speculations from many quarters that crime rates may escalate due to economic downturns resulting from cannabis abuse. However, instead of the predicted crime rate increase, the Mayor contends that there have been more employment and productivity which have in effect, drastically reduced the crime rate in the community.

With the remarkable changes and development going on in Smiths Falls, the Mayor alludes that many people now see it as the new Silicon Valley for Canada. He expressed excitement that there are now bakeries, restaurants and chocolate shops within the municipal which explains the presence of progress.

Challenges Associated with this Development

On the flip side, Mayor Pankow identifies the inability of the community to meet the demands of investors and licensed cannabis producers as one of the major challenges they are currently facing. He noted that whereas, there was a deficit in housing and accommodation two years ago in the municipal, many prospective investors are now stamping to get accommodation for themselves. All previous vacancies have been filled up and house rents are becoming way un-affordable for the common man.

“The previous two years witnessed a high rate of 180 unemployed people with a deficit in housing and accommodation. Right now, there is a high demand for residential areas, and most home builders are building to catch up.”

While these may look like some disadvantages in themselves, they are pregnant with a lot of opportunities for investors with foresight. It means that more builders and licensed cannabis producers in the municipal will have little to no hiccup in finding a market for their products. Investors can take the opportunity of the increasing influx into the municipal to build more houses which would accommodate residents and visitors into the area.

Smith’s Falls Welcomes First Cannabis Golf Course in Canada

The cannabis industry in Canada is, no doubt, adding feathers to its already decorated rank every minute. Just on the outskirt of the Smiths Falls municipal, a new Roller Greens cannabis-centered golf course has been conceived and slated to commence full operation beginning from spring this year.

The location of this golf course which is in Lombardy is quite strategic. It is such that residents of Ottawa and the Smiths Falls community can expect to enjoy pot while playing their beloved game. Also, with just some forty-five minutes’ drive from Ottawa, Canada’s capital, visitors can as well avail themselves of this opportunity.

Gordon Weiske who is the brainchild behind this innovation revealed that the plan to establish the cannabis golf course was conceived last year just as soon as the federal government legalized cannabis in Canada. The necessity for this golf course might not be unconnected with what some have viewed as the harsh stand of golf course owners to the smoking of marijuana when near the game. Gordon Weiske is, however, of the opinion that Roller Greens will revolutionize the cannabis sector in Canada as it parades itself as the first golf course in Canada to permit the smoking of marijuana while enjoying the game.

Being at its infant state, golfers would have to come to the course with their own pot as the on-spot sale of cannabis at the venue is still under review. Similarly, anyone intending to enjoy cannabis there would have to be 19 years or older to be able to do so. The theme of the course challenges golfers who are cannabis smokers to “come and roll with us.” When it finally gains its ground, Weiske is confident that it would go a long way in revamping the entertainment and tourist market greatly.

Reactions from Other Mayors about Smith Falls’ Achievements

When asked whether there has been any collaboration between his municipal and other Mayors regarding the success of recorded in Smiths Falls, Shawn Pankow responded in the affirmative. He said ‘’several colleagues have been anxious to know the type of experience and professionalism we’re having here. In many ways, we’re working things out together’’.

He further explained that Smiths Falls has been under the media spotlight for quite a while now and that other Mayors feel inspired about what is happening and are learning from what the leadership of the municipality has been able to implement.

A love of community and the people in it. That’s the ‘Why’ to Smiths Falls granting licenses when others would not.

Since this story was recorded and written, there have been several changes in management and labour force numbers at Canopy Growth (formerly Tweed) in Smiths Falls. This story will be updated to reflect current conditions.

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