Councilors don’t like the coming legalization of marijuana, but are reluctantly allowing for the possibility of up to two retail outlets of the drug in Weyburn.
The sale of marijuana in Saskatchewan will be regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), which also regulates the sale of alcohol, and Weyburn will be allowed to have up to two retail outlets of marijuana.
As city council, they had the ability to pass a resolution to restrict the opening of retail outlets to one or zero, but after discussion they voted 5-1 against restricting the sale in the city.
Police Chief Marlo Pritchard was on hand to make any comments or provide information from the police department’s point of view, but noted he had little to say in regard to the retail sale of marijuana.
“We don’t know what the legislation will look like, so I can’t speak to whether there will be restrictions on the distance from schools or from advertising. There will be an educational component,” said Chief Pritchard, pointing out that the Senate is currently debating the legislation, and it may not be passed before 2019.
He suggested economics will play a part in whether there will be enough demand for one or two retail outlets in Weyburn.
Asked if there will be any enforcement issues around the sale and use of marijuana, Chief Pritchard said the main regulatory body will be the SLGA. The “grey area” where police are concerned will be whether the sale of edible products with marijuana content will be allowed, and if it isn’t, whether the sale of such products could constitute trafficking or not.
Another grey area is whether citizens will be allowed to grow marijuana plants or not, as Pritchard noted that so far, only one province has said they will not allow private grow operations. As it’s currently proposed, citizens will be allowed to have up to four plants.
The difficulty for the police is if someone has more than four plants, whether that will be a ticketable offence, or a criminal offence, said the chief, adding the other area police will be involved with is impaired driving and being able to enforce impaired driving laws.
The Canadian association of police chiefs have come out strongly against allowing private grow operations for marijuana plants, as “that law is very unenforceable. We need to see the legislation around that. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to enforce,” said the chief.
“There’s always been a lot of controversy around the legalization of marijuana. While I don’t agree with the decision to legalize it, I understand that it’s coming,” said Councilor Dick Michel, noting that the setting of bylaws around the sale and use of marijuana will fall to the City of Weyburn to set.
“I do oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I’m aware that it’s coming. Before we say yes to the biggest change in society in my lifetime, we don’t know what the effects will be, and neither the provincial or federal governments has given us any guidelines about it,” said Councilor Winston Bailey. “Do we know the social impacts on young people?”
He suggested that there could be an impact on his line of work in real estate, pointing out that if someone puts a home up for sale and has neighbors, who are growing marijuana, this could affect the value of the home. Councilor Bailey also suggested that a public forum should be held before council decides whether there should be retail outlets allowed here or not.
Councilor Jeff Richards said while he has mixed emotions about the legalization of marijuana, he feels that the concern in restricting retail outlets is that it will force people to travel outside of the community to buy it, which would hurt the commercial sector.
He noted that this sort of issue came up when he used to own a bar and video lottery terminals came out, with many people making dire predictions about the impact of making the machines more widely available for gambling.
Councilor Mel Van Betuw agreed with him, noting he also does not agree with the legalization of marijuana, but the city shouldn’t restrict its sale. The place for public input, he added, would be around the question of restricting where people can smoke the drug.
Councilor Jeff Chessall also agreed, and said in the current economy, it would be good for business in Weyburn if there could be two retailers set up in the city for the sale of marijuana.
Councilor Bailey said he respected their points of view, but maintained he detests how this is being implemented at the federal level. He has done some reading on how the legalization of marijuana has had an impact in Colorado, but noted even there it depends on one’s point of view if it’s been a bad thing or not.
Mayor Marcel Roy noted in talking with the youth member on council, the youth council at the Comp is not in full agreement on the issue of legalization of marijuana.
He felt the city needs to have the retail outlets here, but agreed there should be a public forum on how the city should go forward, such as where people can use marijuana.
The mayor also felt that alcohol has had a much bigger damaging effect on society than marijuana use will ever have.
In other council business, Leisure Services director Mathew Warren was officially appointed by council as the acting city manager, and he was also appointed as the city’s development officer, who will deal with development permits or home occupation applications as they come in to the City office.