Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Collin Gallant
Page: A1


Majority to respond to city's online questionnaire have been for

Two thirds of Medicine Hatters support pot legalization, according to
early results of an online survey that asks how the city should
regulate local marijuana sales, the municipal planning commission
heard on Wednesday.

The same survey, filled out by 4,000 respondents as of Feb. 20, is on
track to garner a larger response than similar surveys in Calgary and
Edmonton. And city officials says the high numbers aren't the result
of the pro-pot community "hijacking" the process to skew the results.

"The policy right now is not to limit (the number of surveys) that are
submitted by an IP address (of an single computer)," said Jim Genge, a
senior planner with the city who is co-ordinating how municipal zoning
will accommodate pot sales.

However, he says, the addresses are examined and there's no pattern to
indicate inordinate number of voting from any single address.

Genge said the response has set a record for local engagement by the
city when it seeks online input.

About 2,100 Hatters filled out a budget priority survey in 2016. On
cannabis, that number was topped in the first three days. The survey,
which asks about attitudes and possible zoning restrictions for pot
retail stores, will close on March 14.

The numbers will also be presented to the public at this weekend's
Sunshine Home and Garden Tradeshow with the hopes of garnering even
more responses from the general public.

The early results show that Medicine Hatters' attitudes generally
mimic those from a similar survey done by the province in 2017.

"We're seeing that most people aren't shocked that cannabis would
become legal but there are concerns about where it is used," said Genge.

About 41 per cent of Hatters who took part strongly approve of
legalization, followed by 16 per cent up approve and 10 per cent being
neutral. One quarter, or 25 per cent, strongly opposed the move by
Ottawa, and eight per cent were simply opposed.

The survey is being done to help city planners suggest restrictions on
where recreational cannabis outlets could be located. Thus far, 1,204
approve of large commercial areas as preferred locations with Downtown
and light industrial areas receiving about 800 votes each. The option
"no stores" also received 812 votes.

The province will require stores to be greater than 100 metres from
schools and hospitals. Local authorities must write that rule into
local land use zoning and licence stipulations, but can increase above
that level.

MPC chair Brian Varga said the results of the survey will guide
planners and councillors, who could enact changes this spring.

"It will be very important for us to get those numbers to help us
understand where the community is at," Varga told the commission.

The province will accepting retail licence applications in early
March, but that process includes details on locations. Planners in
Medicine Hat and other cities say legislation and zoning changes might
not be final until closer to a July date when federal legislation
comes into force.

The planning department hopes to have survey data collated by April so
it can be presented to city council.

"Everybody's hands are tied until they can get a lease," said MPC
public member Frank Devine. "The sooner we can get local rules in
place the better."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt