Manitoba

Winkler mayor fuming as pot plans land on municipalities' plates

The mayor of Winkler is disappointed it will be left up to municipalities to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana shops to operate in the community.

Premier says local governments will have the final say on where retail weed stores can set up shop.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder says he had no idea his council would be saddled with the decision on where retail marijuana stores can set up shop in his city. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The mayor of Winkler is disappointed it will be left to municipalities to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana shops to operate in the community.

On Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister unveiled a plan for a "hybrid model" for selling pot in the province when recreational marijuana becomes legal next July.

The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp. will secure the supply of cannabis and track it in Manitoba, but private retail stores will be in charge of selling it.

Pallister said local governments will have the final say on where retail weed stores can set up shop once it's legal next summer.

Mayor Martin Harder had no idea his council would be saddled with that decision.

The Manitoba government says it's up to municipalities to decide where retail cannabis shops can set up. (CBC)

"It's a federal issue and quite frankly I'm quite disappointed that we are the ones that are going to have to bear the brunt of the consequences whether we allow it or don't allow it," said Harder.

He says it's unfair that Ottawa made the decision to legalize weed and pushed the problem onto municipalities to figure out how to implement it.

"We have enough issues to deal with," he said, adding the issue of how police will enforce impairment from the drug still hasn't been sorted out.

Pallister said his government has been in contact with members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and would work with them further to address concerns.

"Co-ordinate awareness, co-ordinate information sharing, make sure local concerns are, as much as possible, addressed with facts," said Pallister.​

It will be divisive.-Martin Harder

"So that local governments have the ability to assess the opportunity and make their judgements as they see fit," he added.

When asked about his vision for rural areas, Pallister said the goal is to have about 90 percent of the population within a 30 minute drive of accessing retail cannabis. He also said the request for proposals from retailers would consider online opportunities as well.

Issue will 'divide' the community

Harder thinks the plan to legalize pot is moving too fast — a concern the Premier has also expressed. Harder worries the issue could put people in his community at odds.

"It will be divisive," he said.

"There are going to be the people who are going to say, yes we need it. And people who say no, don't do it," said Harder.
The mayor of Winkler is disappointed it will be left up to municipalities to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana shops to operate in the community. 1:43

"It's no different than the issue that arose in regards to sales of alcohol or, for that matter, video lottery games."

Harder said he's unsure if Winkler would hold a referendum on the topic. He thinks if there were a vote, a majority of Winkler residents would say "no" to selling recreational weed, but says he doesn't know if it would make any difference.

"Whether somebody goes and buys it in a neighbouring community or comes and buys it in your community, at this point in time it doesn't matter, the community now needs to deal with it," said Harder.

Harder doesn't think the legalization will have any impact on the black market, other than possibly bringing in new problems with different drugs.

"One thing goes out of style, you take something else on that's even more damaging than marijuana is," he said.

Harder said the topic will likely be discussed at the AMM's annual convention at the end of the month.

Most pot smokers would give up their dealer

In September, Prairie Research Associates asked 800 Manitobans about legal marijuana. The polling firm found 81 per cent of people who had used marijuana in the last six months would start using a licensed retail store instead of an illegal dealer. 

The survey also found about 15 per cent of Manitobans who don't currently smoke marijuana would consider giving it a shot once it's legal. 

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent 19 times out of 20. 
The Manitoba plan for marijuana sales once it is legalized appears to be less restrictive than Ontario's, with a role for the public and private sectors. CBC Manitoba's Teghan Beaudette explains. 1:31

With files from Susan Magas