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City preps for pot plebiscite

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 07/18/2018 8:00 AM

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Steinbach voters will have another reason to head to the polls this fall as October's municipal election has now become a joint vote on retail cannabis sales too.

City council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night in favour of adding a plebiscite question to October's vote.

Council has approached the issue with apprehension so far. At a committee meeting in February, cannabis sale provisions proposed by city administration in a draft zoning bylaw update were removed at the direction of council.

On Tuesday, Councillor John Fehr advanced plans for a plebiscite, which the province has indicated is the only option for communities wishing to restrict retail cannabis sales.

Voters will be asked, in the vote on Oct. 24, whether or not licensed retail cannabis stores should be allowed in Steinbach.

"I think we've heard a lot from the community on this issue and there are a lot of people who would like to have their say in it," Fehr told The Carillon.

Fehr expressed his frustration with the lack of information that has flowed to municipalities from the other levels of government on the issue. Even with more information, Fehr acknowledged his personal opposition to cannabis sales likely wouldn't change.

"It will enlighten your life for a little while probably but I don't know if it's going to benefit your life in the long haul," Fehr said.

Steinbach mayor Chris Goertzen said a plebiscite will give clear direction on the issue to the next council, but the mayor was also the lone vote of opposition to Fehr's motion.

"I think one of the realities of the sale of marijuana, whether we like it or not, is that it will be sold online and delivered to peoples' homes," Goertzen told The Carillon, following the meeting.

"So, if we going down the line of limiting retail access, it really doesn't limit it at all. It might give some people false hope that it won't be consumed in our community."

Tuesday's council meeting marked the last opportunity for council to endorse a plebiscite in tandem with the municipal election, as council authorization was required 90 days before a plebiscite vote.

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