The Manitoba government has put its stamp of approval on Virden as a location for a cannabis retail store. Virden Council has drafted a zoning by-law to outline locations for a store and future potential commercial cultivation and processing within the town limits. The by-law will be presented at a Public Hearing.
Last October, along with the municipal vote, the RM of Wallace-Woodworth ran a referendum on whether to allow a cannabis retail in the municipality. Virden did not poll their residents, but a decision was recorded from the May 1, 2018 Council Meeting from a motion by Tara Cowan and seconder Tina Williams, and carried: “the Council of the Town of Virden has reconsidered its position in regards to the Association of Manitoba Municipalities non-binding survey, circulated in December, 2017, in regards to Cannabis Legalization and Regulation and are now prepared to say yes to allowing the sale of cannabis from a retail location situation in our municipality.”
Council of the day, says CAO Rhonda Stewart, felt that this could potentially be another retail business in the community that would help keep shopping at home, in Virden.
With an announcement by Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen just two weeks ago, adding Virden to the list of seven towns approved to open a cannabis retail, the town’s by-law officer Cory Nixon says the town needed to put zoning in place to guide where a cannabis shop can go.
Couched within an omnibus zoning document (By-Law No. 2769) to update existing zoning are management regulations for Cannabis related uses.
The amending by-law adds a definition of Industrial Mall, bulk requirements and zoning which covers cannabis retail, industrial growing and processing/packaging.
“We actually had zero regulations for cannabis in our by-law, so we had to put in new uses and definitions,” explained Nixon.
The provincial press release says the second phase of its retail rollout is to meet the stated goal of having a non-medical cannabis retail store available within a 30-minute drive for 90 per cent of Manitobans.
Pedersen noted the Manitoba government has been working with local governments to ensure they have ‘fair say’ and are onboard with the proposed retail locations.
He says the town or municipality controls where cannabis stores are located in their communities, with the province playing a supportive role outlining options available, including reviewing how close the stores may be to schools, houses of worship and community centres, at the municipality’s request.
Nixon says, “We have allowed [cannabis retail] … as a conditional use in the commercial central, commercial highway and commercial linear zones.”
Linear commercial zones include the King Street commercial strip and the strip along the west side of Fifth Street with the east side of Fifth being residential, and along Sixth Street.
Virden’s by-law stipulates 100 metre setbacks from schools, daycares and recreational use property. There was no mention of places of worship.
In zoning, the term “conditional use” means that although the project (in this case a cannabis operation) may be permitted according to zoning, it has to go through a Public Hearing at council first. Nixon said. “Everyone within 100 metres of that property will be invited to that Hearing so everyone has a say in it.” So while a project may fit the zoning, this gives council and the general public that it serves, more control.
According to Mayor Murray Wright, “The Town has received informal inquiries as to whether or not [a cannabis retail outlet] will be allowed, but no serious inquiries or development permits have been received.”
The by-law and zoning maps can be seen at the Town office. The Public Hearing is slated for May 7 where any eligible voter within Virden may attend and make representation to the advertised matter.
Retail cannabis in Manitoba
Manitoba has a hybrid public/private model for non-medical legal cannabis.
In July 2018, the province released a Request for Pre-Qualification seeking potential retailers interested in operating cannabis retail stores in Manitoba.
Nearly 100 applicants pre-qualified as part of this process and will participate in a randomized draw for each location based on the geographic preferences they indicate.
Newly approved Manitoba locations include:
• Flin Flon;
• Lac du Bonnet;
• RM of Russell-Binscarth;
• Swan River; and
Licensed private retailers can only sell cannabis supplied by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.
The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) will regulate Manitoba’s cannabis industry.