Monday, 2 Oct 2023

Altona, Man., to hold plebiscite on whether or not to allow pot sales

A southern Manitoba community is heading to the polls to decide whether or not it will go to pot.

The Town of Altona has scheduled a vote this spring to let residents decide if cannabis retailers can set up shop in the community.

The move comes after a group opposed to the idea brought a petition to town council in January, calling for a plebiscite on the issue.

At the time Altona’s mayor, Al Friesen, told Global News the petition looked to have more than the 620 signatures needed to trigger a vote, but town officials needed to verify the signatures.

Council then passed a resolution calling for the plebiscite at their Feb. 25 meeting.

After cannabis became legal across Canada in October 2018, the Manitoba government announced brick-and-mortar stores would open in Altona, Flin Flon, Lac du Bonnet, Niverville, Swan River, Virden and the RM of Russell-Binscarth.

The plan is part of the government’s goal for 90 per cent of Manitobans to have a recreational cannabis store located within a 30-minute drive by October 2020.

Retailer backs out

But the company chosen by random draw to open a retail cannabis store in Altona — Calgary-based Westleaf — announced it had changed its mind and wouldn’t be opening up shop, around the same time the petition came to town hall.

That left another retailer — a numbered Manitoba company selected as a backup — next in line to open up shop in the community 92 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, if it so chooses.

Whether or not that happens now appears to be in the hands of voters in Altona.

The community is not the first in southern Manitoba to go to the people with the retail cannabis question.

Last November, the Town of Niverville held a plebiscite after councilors split a vote on the question of whether or not to allow pot sales.

That town, 32-kilometres south of Winnipeg, ultimately voted 863 to 719 in favour of cannabis sales.

Altona’s plebiscite will be open to all residents over the age of 18 who have lived in or owned property in Altona for at least six months before the vote.

The community will head to the polls May 13.

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