Dope! Weed! Reefer! It was all about the Sticky Greens at City Council

Robert Thomas

Moose Jaw will have two licensed cannabis retailers after a unanimous motion to receive and file a letter from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) from Council. But the location of the two licensed retailers is still Up in Smoke. Zoning and locations to be decided boy Council.

In a meeting where five residents and a potential retailer spoke, Council voted unanimously NOT to register any objection to the SLGA allowing the two retailers into the city. 

 Don Dutchak addressing council

Don Dutchak addressing council

The two retailers were part of the Province’s plan to roll out access to cannabis, after planned legalization July 1st. In response, the Province decided to award the sale and distribution of recreational cannabis through 60 retailers in communities with populations over 2500. Based upon population, Moose Jaw was eligible for two licenses unless Council refused.

By receiving and filing the SLGA letter, Council has approved SLGA issuing the two cannabis retail licenses by not filing any objection.

Rece Allen spoke in favour of allowing the retailers, as it would afford the opportunity to legitimate businesses and allow the market to decide “and not the black market.”

Shawn Francis described himself as a “survivor” of the opiate epidemic and, without allowing the licensed retailers, he claimed, “black market will thrive.” “THC cannabis saved my life,” Francis said.

He said he favoured having the retailers in areas more industrial or commercial; away from the downtown core. 

Denis Watson, a military veteran with mobility issues, said he had been using cannabis medicinally for five years and it had greatly improved his quality of life. Watson saw efforts to legalize in places like Portugal, where they saved “billions in tax dollars” and in Colorado, "where the crime rate dropped 30 percent when legalized.”

He opposed the stigma associated with cannabis. “There's a stigma that came with the medication. Cannabis has been in our culture for 12,000 years,” Watson went to add, “it brings with it a quality of life…it can benefit many people.”

“It's coming no matter what you do, nor how much you try to fight it…everybody must get rid of the stigma; it's a medication,” Watson stated.

Katrina Zimbaluk, a social worker who has worked in addictions and now works with youth, supported the retailers. “The overall impact these dispensaries will have on Moose Jaw…is, in my research...it's for the greater good to have in Moose Jaw; to have these two dispensaries,” Zimbaluk said saying she wasn't a user, but supported the motion.

“Marijuana is controlled by the gangs and drug dealers with no regulations…there is no way to tell how it's grown and what it’s combined with,” she claimed. “Which is more harmful? marijuana in the city right now, or government operated and controlled?” Zimbaluk asked.

She spoke about it being lucrative for the individual drug dealer, if no legal dispensaries were allowed or if there were legalized dispensaries, the community would benefit from the sales.

Retiree Don Dutchak said he had used cannabis for 51 years and it had helped relieve pain, allowing him to cut back from 1000 mg of morphine a day, to 100 mg. He spoke in favour of allowing the retailers. “Nobody can ever tell me how there is anything there that is wrong with it,” Dutchak told Council.

Mayor Frasier Tolmie said he had spoken and stressed in the past that once recreational cannabis becomes legal, what adults wish to do with legal products in their own home was not the City’s business.

The Mayor said Council had challenges when implementing it, such as zoning and paying for additional law enforcement. 

In the January budget presentation to Council, the Moose Jaw Police Services’ Chief Rick Bourassa said there would be additional costs to policing once cannabis is legalized.

Additionally, Council had previously tabled a motion which would have restricted smoking cannabis, hookah bars and vaping, to conform to  an anti-tobacco smoking bylaw.

“We make bylaws based on facts,” Tolmie said.

Mayor Tolmie said areas where retailers should be zoned away from are schools, day cares, youth centres and addiction centres.

Justin Zoroback saw the proposed recreational cannabis retailers a “great opportunity for the community.”

Zoroback, however, said he did not like the idea of any proposed retailers being zoned to industrial areas as it would lessen the opportunity for the business to survive.

“You can't put it in an industrial area, it wouldn't survive,” he said, adding there are liquor stores on Main Street.

Adele Doerksen said she had suffered from a rehabilitating chronic pain disorder since she was nine years old and cannabis kept her out of a wheelchair. Cannabis allowed her to work and she was not drowsy from opiates. “Health-wise, the best years to me, have been when I have access to medical marijuana,” Doerksen stated, saying licensed retailers would provide a friendly face to help people select the appropriate product.

 Katrina Zimbaluk

Katrina Zimbaluk

Doerksen said she had moved from Vancouver back to Moose Jaw and “the attitude here is a little bit more conservative” towards cannabis. She saw the proposed retailers as a great opportunity for the community.

Brad Henson, from Regina, spoke as a potential retailer. He has experience from operating two retail operations in Colorado.

In an interview with MJ Independent, Henson said he would like to see any cannabis retailer at least 500 feet from residential areas.

“For kids to see it everyday they are going to school is sad,” he said when asked why, as a former retail operator, he favoured not allowing cannabis retailers in residential neighbourhoods.

“I don't think we should tell our kids it's OK,” Henson said.

He had previously told Council his Colorado stores were in mixed residential and commercial areas and had had a negative effect upon the neighbourhood. He told Council he recommended they approve the retailers but only in commercial or industrial areas.

He provided advice to Council on controlling cannabis, to help prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and he was subsequently thanked by the Mayor for the information.

In a media scrum, Katrina Zimbaluk said she favoured the two dispensaries because of harm reduction associated with getting cannabis sales away from illicit drug dealers.

“You don't have a drug dealer selling pot…there is lots of stuff (cannabis) sold on the streets that's laced with crystal meth…there is lots of weed that is laced (with meth and other illicit drugs)…it (meth addiction) is an epidemic in our community,” Zimbaluk said.

She did not see any correlation between cannabis and meth and that by the government regulating and controlling quality and growing conditions people will know exactly what they are buying.

When and how the lottery is held for the cannabis retailers is up to SLGA, who is presently drafting the policies in response to the federal government’s announcing the legalization of recreational cannabis. The Province has announced it is unlikely the legal wholesale and retail in cannabis system will be up and running by the date recreational cannabis (up to 30 grams) becomes legal.

The black market or drug dealer market will not be legalized by the Federal government.

 

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