During the City Council meeting last night, there was some contention regarding the approval of a new cannabis store in Swift Current.
The store in question has been a hot topic for opinion during previous meetings, but ultimately it was approved by council last, as there were no discrepancies they could determine in the zoning bylaws.
During the vote for approval, there was derision amongst council. One council member abstained from voting, citing a number of citizen comments received describing a lack of interest or a need for a third cannabis store.
Other members, described how even if they themselves have their own opinions, they would support this application. One such councillor was Councillor John Wall.
"Although I don't feel very comfortable with another store in this type of area, I don't think it's up to the City to choose winners or losers," explained Wall.
This would encapsulate a good amount of other councillors' opinions on the vote, but not all of them.
Councillor Leanne Tuntland-Wiebe abstained from the vote and explained her reason for doing so.
"Since cannabis has been legalized, it's not this I can stop this from happening," started Tuntland-Wiebe. "I wish the local one would have been on top of it before the two other ones came in if that's a good thing. I don't think the residents of Swift Current or the taxpayers are gaining anything by this. Everyone that has talked to me don't support a third store in Swift Current."
Tuntland-Wiebe recognized that there are benefits to medical marijuana use, and allowed that there is nothing wrong with the use of the substance for those applications.
"I'm just going with the residents that I have heard from that don't wish to have a third [cannbis store] here," explained Tuntland-Wiebe. "So I will be abstaining from the vote."
Councillor Ryan Plewis also weighed in, stating that it was not a vote on deciding the morality of the store, or even if they wanted this kind of business in town.
"The decision that was put before council was a recommendation about a zoning issue," iterated Plewis. "Really, in my mind, it has nothing to do with the type of business that's locating in a particular area."
This vote was entirely about whether or not the business would violate zoning bylaws in the downtown area they were requesting permission to set up. Any other arguments for or against the business not related to the zoning bylaws are unrelated.
"You're going to take your business plan, you're going to shine that against the rules that are in place and it's the City's job to provide clear, fair rules that are easy to understand, easy enough to follow, and if you can compare your business plan against those rules, you should have a pretty reasonable guess as to whether or not you're going to be successful in your application or not," elaborated Plewis.
So long as a business application is within those rules and has done its due diligence with planning and permissions, council's only job is to ensure that the business hasn't gone outside the letter of the law and is indeed fully within its rights to be approved.
But disagreements and concerns regarding the public's opinions on these matters are important.
"They can pull on your heartstrings, they can pull on your brain strings, they can make you have thoughts in different areas that you maybe haven't had before," assessed Plewis. "Which is exactly the purpose of public hearings. It's to gather input from the community and to get a bit of an idea of what people want or don't want. What I want to go back to is the fact that, as a member of city council, we need to provide those criteria to the public and we need to be fair and I would say dispassionate in a way when we're applying this particular case against those criteria."
Following this approval, the cannabis shop can begin getting ready to move into its approved location at 42-D Centre Avenue North, in the old Bank of Canada building.