Many southern Manitoba communities saying 'yes' to pot

If you live in southern Manitoba, it looks likely that a marijuana retailer could be opening up shop in a community near you, once the sale of the drug becomes legal next summer.

Municipalities in the Pembina Valley reached by CBC News say they're giving the nod to pot retailers

The communities in Manitoba's Pembina Valley reached by CBC News say they'll say yes to allowing marijuana retailers to open up shop in their communities. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

If you live in southern Manitoba, it is looking likely that a marijuana retailer could be opening up shop in a community near you, once the sale of the drug becomes legal next summer.

The province has asked individual municipalities to decide if they will allow retailers to sell recreational pot in their communities, giving them a deadline of Dec. 22 to weigh in.

Community leaders in Manitoba's Pembina Valley met with the hope of coming up with a regional approach to the sale of cannabis last week.

While Winkler Mayor Martin Harder, who chairs the Pembina Valley Region Mayors group, said Friday the group hadn't reached a consensus, all of the other municipalities in the group CBC News reached Saturday said they plan to say "yes" to the sale of pot in their communities.

"When it gets legalized nationally you'll be be able to mail order it in regardless, and there is marijuana in our communities whether we like it or not," said Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde. "If we have a bit more control over retail outlets and quality… I feel in the long term this could have a benefit in general for our country and for our province."

There is marijuana in our communities whether we like it or not.- Morris Mayor Gavin van der Linde

As well as Morris, officials from Altona, Carman, the Municipality of Pembina, Morden, and Roland all said they would let the province know they'll allow cannabis retailers to open up.

CBC News was unable to reach officials from Cartwright, Somerset, Emerson, Plum Coulee, the Municipality of Louise, and the Municipality of Rhineland.

Harder previously said Winkler has not made a final decision and wouldn't be able 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.

'Where are you at?'

Winkler isn't the only community to say they want more details. Altona Mayor Melvin Klassen said the community will say "yes" to the province only as long as they will be assured they'll be able to keep control of where the drug is sold.

Klassen said he still has questions for the province about its plan around pot.

"We're asking the provincial government, 'Where are you at?'," he said. "You asked for a lot of money from the feds, which you did deserve, but how much are you going to give back to the municipalities, because we have to enforce a lot of it."

Many of the community leaders CBC News spoke to said they felt the Dec. 22 deadline set by the province didn't give them enough time to make a decision.

Due to that tight timeline, the Manitoba government said it will also allow municipalities to hold a plebiscite to prohibit cannabis retail stores up until January 2022. A plebiscite has to be initiated by council or by a petition signed by 20 per cent of electors, a government briefing note said.

Glenn Shiskoski, reeve of the Municipality of Pembina, said it was that option that left the Pembina Valley Region Mayors group unable to reach a consensus.

"Some are hoping a plebiscite may be used," said Shiskoski, who added his municipality isn't going to push for a plebiscite but would listen to residents if they decide to go that route.

The sale of marijuana is set to become legal July 1.

Manitoba holds out on federal pot deal

In anticipation of legalization, the federal Liberal government — which has long insisted its plans were never about the money, but about keeping pot away from kids — has proposed an excise tax of $1 per gram or 10 per cent of the final retail price, whichever is higher.

Last week Manitoba became the only province not to sign on to a federal-provincial agreement to share the tax revenue from legalized cannabis. The federal government and 12 out of 13 provinces and territories signed an agreement to split the marijuana tax pot at least 75/25, up from the initial offer of 50/50.

Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen has said the province's decision not to sign on to the agreement wouldn't affect the July 1 deadline for the sale of legalized pot in the province.

In Manitoba, the Liquor and Gaming Authority — soon to be the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority — will regulate the supply and distribution of recreational weed. It will be available for purchase, in-store and online, from provincially approved private retailers.

The premier has previously said cannabis should be accessible within a 30-minute drive for about 90 per cent of the population.

Rural Municipality of Gimli councillors have voted no to allowing the retail sale of pot in their community.

With files from Elisha Dacey and Cameron MacLean