Brandon civil servants urge city to greenlight sale of weed

Known for the scenic Prairie that surrounds, civil servants in the Wheat City now seem poised to be associated with grass, too.

Municipalities have until Dec. 22 to decide whether to ban or allow retail cannabis sales next summer

Manitoba municipalities have until Dec. 22 to let the province know whether they plan to ban or embrace local pot sales in their communities come July 2018. (CBC)

The Wheat City seems poised to be associated with grass, too.

Brandon city staff released a memo Thursday urging councillors to approve the retail sale of pot from one store in the municipality, about 200 kilometres west of Winnipeg, on Monday at the next council meeting.

"While the federal legalization of cannabis itself may be controversial to many Brandon residents, declining to participate with the province will leave the City of Brandon completely out of the legislative process and Brandon will be left subject to the black market unregulated product and online sales only," Heather Ewasiuk, a clerk with the city, writes in the memo.

The Manitoba government recently unveiled its plan to roll out a "hybrid" public-private retail pot model when the federal government is expected to legalize cannabis July 1, 2018. 

The province's Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority will regulate the distribution, purchase, storage and sale of cannabis, but private businesses will sell cannabis.

Municipalities have been left to decide whether to allow or ban the sale of pot in their communities, and if so, draw up their own zoning bylaws for how close retailers can set up shop near places such as schools.

Municipalities have until Dec. 22 to notify the province if they don't want in; they can also reverse their decision later through a referedum. 

Rick Macl, owner of Growers and Smokers in Brandon, said he was excited to hear Brandon officials would review whether to approve retail sales on Monday.

"In Brandon there's a lot of people that are for it," he said. "There's a lot of people that have no issues with it, especially in government here and in businesses."

Rick Macl, the owner of Growers and Smokers in Brandon, says he's finalizing plans for a bid to sell legal pot in Manitoba. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

He and his business partners are applying to be one of four retail distributors in Manitoba (the province has capped the number of distributors at four). The province issued a call for business proposals in early November that are also due by Dec. 22.

Macl said whatever happens, he believes Brandon is big enough to support at least two pot shops.

"You should probably have two with the amount of people in Brandon, because you'd be serving Brandon and surrounding areas," Macl said from Brandon, home to about 48,000 residents. "That's quite a bit of people."

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology. Before joining CBC Manitoba, he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring birds in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

With files from Riley Laychuk and Tessa Vanderhart