The tail end of last week’s town council meeting in Outlook included some brief discussion on the announcement made by the provincial government concerning the framework for allowing cannabis retail outlets in cities and towns across the province.
The announcement included a list of communities in Saskatchewan that are eligible for a retail permit to sell cannabis and related products, and Outlook is one of the locations among the dozens listed.
Key to the government’s announcement is the fact that local officials and governing bodies in all of the eligible areas have the final say in allowing a cannabis retail venture in their communities.
Since the announcement, online debate over the pros and cons of having a legal marijuana dispensary in one’s own backyard has dominated some areas of social media, and there appears to be a strong and vocal proponent in favour of Outlook having a retail outlet.
Outside of this community, the provincial government’s findings on public opinion regarding cannabis and any possible retail outlets in Saskatchewan by way of conducting an online survey saw a big outpour of views and responses when the numbers were released in late November.
The government conducted the survey from September 8 to October 6 in order to collect insight from residents to help shape cannabis legalization within the province. The online survey received 34,681 responses – the most of any survey the province has previously conducted – which told the government that Saskatchewan residents have a lot to say about the divisive topic of cannabis legalization. Respondents provided valuable information which was used to help guide Saskatchewan’s approach to the issue.
Some of the responses to key questions in the survey included:
Question: How should cannabis be made available for purchase in Saskatchewan?
Largest response: 62.3% said a mixture of retail stores and online sales.
Second-biggest response: 22.7% said retail stores.
47.3% said they ‘strongly agreed’ that Saskatchewan should allow walk-in retail locations, while 27.9% ‘agreed’ and 14.2% ‘strongly disagreed’.
Question: If retail stores are considered, who should sell cannabis?
Largest response: 45.2% said a government-run retailer, similar to SLGA.
Second-largest response: 37.0% said a small business retailer.
33.7% ‘strongly agreed’ and 20.0% ‘agreed’ that cannabis consumption should be prohibited in public spaces.
52.4% ‘strongly agreed’ that there should be zero tolerance for cannabis or other impairing drugs for commercial drivers.
40.3% ‘strongly agreed’ that there should be zero tolerance for cannabis or other impairing drugs, no matter the age or license status of drivers.
45.4% ‘strongly agreed’ that a portion of tax collected from the sale of cannabis be directed to areas such as enforcement, public education, harm reduction, impaired driving prevention, and mental health and addictions treatment.
At the town council meeting in Outlook, it was said that no decision on saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to allowing a cannabis retail store would be made swiftly, as there is a lot of information to digest and consider. The matter was tabled to the February 14 meeting, where a decision is expected to be made.
In the meantime, more specific details regarding application criteria for the cannabis retail permits, as well as licensing fees, application timelines and other associated details are set to be finalized by the government over the near future, and a decision on the minimum age for cannabis consumption is expected to be made later this spring.