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City to adopt province's pot retail regulations

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

It won't be available July 1 like previously planned, however the sale of recreational cannabis within Portage la Prairie is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Portage city council approved an administrative recommendation to adopt the province of Manitoba's Social Responsibility Location Review Process when it comes to zoning pot retailers within city limits.

"In (these) situations, representatives from the province work alongside representatives from the city to determine suitable locations," explains Coun. Brent Budz. "It's a pretty exhaustive list and one that the city intends to work with the province with. It's not that dissimilar from a process that's used in determining where new Liquor Marts should be."

The report will return to council later this month where it will undergo a first reading. Parameters considered by the social review process include cannabis retailer's proximity to facilities like schools, places of worship and recreational centres.

"This is one where the city is aligning itself with what the province is recommending," adds Budz. "The province has been very, very clear with us in terms of how this process is going to go and who's going to regulate and distribute the recreational cannabis."

Under the province's recommendations, the Liquor, Gaming, and Cannabis Authority (LGCA) would be in charge of regulating the industry while the Manitoba Liquors and Lottery Corporation would be tasked with central order processing and the distribution to licensed retailers.

Originally slated to become legal July 1, the Canadian Senate voted just last week to lift the country's near century-long prohibition on recreational cannabis - pushing the legalization timeline back to August or September.

That said, the Canada Day deadline would have been irrelevant to those hoping to procure pot next month, as interest in legally selling cannabis in Portage la Prairie remains low.

"There's been no contact for retail locations at the city level at this point in time but obviously there's this process it has to go through so people have an understanding of how it works," says Budz. "I suspect, in the future, just like in other communities, there could be some interest in our region for sure."

The first reading on cannabis sales in Portage la Prairie will take place at council's June 25 regular meeting.

RM follows suit

The council to the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie decided to adopt the province of Manitoba's Social Responsibility Location Review Process in regards to zoning pot retailers around the RM.

“From the RM’s perspective, council thought it was best to call in all the resources available to us,” says Reeve, Kam Blight. “We felt we didn’t have a lot of experience in (that) route and the provincial government is going to be undertaking this with a staff appointed to doing research into where the best locations are to be putting these retail outlets for cannabis."

Council feels by pairing with the province's resources it gives them the best shot at finding safe locations for cannabis retail outlets, while still having a voice in the matter. 

“We don’t know the positive or negative impacts it’s going to have on the community and we want to make sure we have some sort of a say as to where the locations are going to be,” adds Blight. “We still feel it’s not a good idea to have one of these locations right next to a school, we feel there are obviously better places one could be. Taking this route will help us make those decisions and take in as much information as possible.”

Just as with the city of Portage la Prairie, no one has applied for a permit to sell marijuana in the RM of Portage.

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