Gimli, Man., just says no to retail pot

Councillors in Gimli, Man. have voted no to allowing the retail sale of pot in the community.

'The government is not giving us enough time': Mayor

Gimli, Man., has decided to not allow pot retail stores for the time being. (CBC)

Councillors in Gimli, Man. have voted no to allowing the retail sale of pot in the community.

Earlier in December the Manitoba government gave municipalities a deadline of Dec. 22 to decide whether they wish to ban or embrace local pot sales. That cutoff is also the last day prospective weed businesses have to make their pitches to the provincial government.

Gimli mayor Randy Woroniuk says the decision was one vote short of unanimous; one councillor abstained.

"We do not feel comfortable that the provincial government knows exactly what's going on going forward," said Woroniuk. "We felt that there wasn't enough information, we felt that the government is not giving us enough time, so that's why at this time we said no.

"It's a lot easier to move forward in the future if things change — depending on the community, depending on what the provincial government is coming down with — but right at this time we're not comfortable with what we're hearing from the provincial government."

Woroniuk pointed to the province's decision this week to not sign on to the federal government's pot plan — which offers provincial governments at least 75 per cent of the tax on pot — as one of the reasons council made the choice.

He said the municipality wants to know how much of the money brought in by the province will trickle to communities.

"If the provincial government is concerned about a bunch of unknowns, as a municipal government we also have to be concerned about those unknowns," he said. "We're going to get all the social costs, and then get nothing for it?"

'We haven't got time to make the decision'

 Woroniuk acknowledges the council is seeing some backlash on social media from residents about the decision.

"Apparently on Facebook it's blowing up that … we should be allowing pot," he said. "To be honest I have no opinion either way — if you want to smoke marijuana that's your choice — but at this time we haven't got time to make the decision."

Woroniuk says he also spoke to Gimli RCMP, who he says had concerns about how any changes would be enforced.

"Everybody wants us to make a decision on a substance that's been illegal for decades in just weeks — there's something wrong with that," he said. 

Woroniuk points out the decision doesn't mean people won't be able to smoke pot in Gimli.

"Come July 1 you'll be able to smoke marijuana where ever you can smoke marijuana," he said. "It's just that there won't be a storefront."

Municipalities will also have until 2022 to decide if they want to hold referendums on whether to ban pot. They can be initiated by local council resolutions or by petitions "signed by 20 per cent of electors." Referenda are generally expected to occur at the same time as municipal elections.

Woroniuk says he wants to hold community consultations in the new year.

"We can do this in the future, but I want to make sure all our ducks in a row with the provincial government before we move forward," he said.

No consensus in Pembina Valley

Meanwhile community leaders in Manitoba's Pembina Valley have not been able to reach a consensus on a regional approach to the sale of cannabis when it's made legal.

Roughly a dozen mayors and reeves from the south-central Manitoba region met this week to try to come up with a uniform decision.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder, who chairs the Pembina Valley Region Mayors group, tells CBC News 13 out of 14 municipalities were represented at the meeting but they did not come to an agreement — some communities will say yes, and some will say no, he said.

He says Winkler has decided not to respond to the province's request for an answer by Dec. 22.

"The City of Winkler is not ready to make that commitment because we have no details," he said.

With files from Leif Larsen