Pubdate: Thu, 09 Nov 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Nick Martin and Kevin Rollason
Page: A1


MANITOBANS are learning it will be their mayor and local council who
will decide if legal retail cannabis can be sold in their communities
next summer.

Notwithstanding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize
pot nationally by July 1, and Premier Brian Pallister's months of
accusing Ottawa of moving too fast, it turns out it will be a local

Municipal councils found out Tuesday, and Pallister's office confirmed
Wednesday, that the province is giving them the same local power over
pot as they have over Sunday shopping.

Even as Pallister announced his plan Tuesday to have pot sold by
private stores that would be overseen by a provincial regulator and a
Crown corporation, provincial bureaucrats were telling municipalities
privately that they have the final say.

Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen, the president of the Association of
Manitoba Municipalities, said Wednesday provincial officials confirmed
to AMM officials Tuesday that local councils would make the final
decision on allowing retail cannabis stores to operate.

Meanwhile, in Pallister's absence Wednesday, Growth, Enterprise and
Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said businesses submitting proposals to
operate retail cannabis stores will have to serve multiple locations,
and mom and pop stores would not be considered until a future expansion.

"We're looking at cross-Manitoba coverage," he said. "How can you have
a single store and serve all of Manitoba? This is a phased-in
approach. We need entities that can cover the province. In the future,
we can look at one-offs."

Pedersen warned companies preparing to submit business plans by the
Dec. 22 deadline that they'll have to consider the possibility that
some of the communities in which they intend to operate may not accept

"They better do their homework," Pedersen said.

The Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority and Manitoba Liquor and
Lotteries will be responsible for all other aspects of legal cannabis
sales, including procurement of supply, security, storage and
distribution. Cannabis will be sold through private retail stores by
up to four approved companies.

Asked several times, Pedersen would not say directly whether the
government has ever said publicly that municipalities would have the
autonomy to block retail cannabis. "Municipalities have that right.
This is the ongoing relationship we have with the municipalities,"
Pedersen said.

One government source said Pallister had never brought it up, but
neither had anyone asked until this week.

Goertzen said that municipal councils have the authority to name a
specific commercial use to be controlled or even excluded under zoning
bylaws. That's how they can control Sunday shopping, or by allowing
alcohol to be sold, Goertzen said.

"We can decide what's best for our own communities," Goertzen said.
"The information only came out (Tuesday) that we can control our
zoning bylaws.

"Municipalities do control where alcohol is served," he said. "We
welcome them treating it the same way. The communications we've had
with the province indicate we can enter this into our zoning bylaws."

The request for proposals makes one brief reference to retail cannabis
stores needing to comply with local zoning bylaws. It doesn't mention
that prospective retailers could be kept out of some

Goertzen said that the province and municipalities have been talking
at an officials' level on a daily basis for months in anticipation of
legalization, expected to take effect July 1.

"It was about municipalities having the ability to regulate what goes
on in their municipalities," Goertzen said.

The Steinbach mayor expects retail recreational cannabis to be a major
topic at AMM's annual general meeting later this month, when
provincial politicians and officials will discuss details with about
800 municipal councillors.

Goertzen said it shouldn't be assumed that councils will reject legal
sales in their communities.

"The reality is, this is happening," he said. "Municipalities are

They're also aware that Ottawa says its legislation will allow
mail-order supplies of legal recreational cannabis.

The request for proposals says that, subject to change, the province
will notify successful retail proponents Jan. 31 and sign agreements
by March 31. The Pallister government has not yet decided when it will
identify them pubicly or disclose in which communities they plan to

Pallister noted Tuesday it is not accurate to say he opposes federal
plans to legalize cannabis. He believes Ottawa is rushing the process
and leaving insufficient time to plan how provinces will handle
enforcement, especially how to handle drivers who are impaired by pot.

Federal officials in Ottawa told the Free Press that they will address
the issue of municipal powers Thursday.

Mayor Brian Bowman said he hasn't had the chance to fully review the
province's pot plan because he just got back from meetings in North
Dakota and Minnesota.

"First glance at it, it looks like an innovative path forward for the
distribution of cannabis," Bowman said. "The primary question that I
didn't see answered (Tuesday), at least from the reports, was how the
city will be compensated for anticipated extra costs for policing and
other services. That has to be resolved going forward.

"My primary concern is who is collecting the revenues, where are they
going, and how are they ultimately going to help compensate for what
we anticipate are increased costs for first responders."

Bowman said the city to date hasn't taken a close look at what bylaws
and zoning rules would have to be in place because, up until this
week, it didn't know the distribution model the province would decide

Bowman said between now and when marijuana is legalized next year
"there will be a lot of work required by the public service and
council going forward."

Winnipeg Coun. John Orlikow, chair of the property and development
committee, told the Free Press that city council will decide whether
Winnipeg will opt out.

"We never knew that was an option before," Orlikow said Wednesday. "We
haven't had a chance to talk about it at council. There's been no
communication from the province. There's no official word - I know AMM
has heard."
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