A likely candidate for mayor in the October election said city hall should have a role to play in where head shops can operate in Winnipeg.
Coun. Scott Fielding, chairman of the Winnipeg Police Board, said there is concern within the community when businesses legitimately selling merchandize that can be used for the enjoyment of illegal drugs set up close to schools.
"I think through zoning, we can control where they are going," he said.
Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) was commenting on news reports the owner of Hemp Haven, an Elmwood store, was charged with selling drug paraphernalia, and the owner of the popular Osborne Village store Wild Planet said the apparent police crackdown is prompting him to sell his business.
Fielding said these businesses should be regulated on a conditional-use basis, which would require the holding of a public hearing.
Fielding said the liberalization of drug laws is being discussed at all levels of government and society, adding the issue in Winnipeg is where they are operating -- not whether they should be operating.
The zoning would not restrict what head shops can sell, but where they are located, he said.
"A conditional use would allow it in certain areas but would call for a public hearing," Fielding said following Friday's police board meeting.
"If there is a lot of concern from residents... people can come out and have their say and then council can make a decision in terms of the locations."
Deputy police chief Dave Thorne said he couldn't say whether the WPS has launched a city-wide crackdown on head shops, adding charges against the Elmwood operator were prompted by complaints from several area residents.
Winnipeg police are denying claims by owners of local head shops police have launched a crackdown aimed at putting them out of business.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Winnipeg police said it "wishes to clarify that there have not been any widespread 'raids' targeting these outlets, nor has there been a demand that these businesses cease operations."
Police said only one person has been charged in connection with "a specific incident at one of these retail outlets.
"Since the spring of 2013, officers have been visiting many of the local stores to discuss complaints brought forward by community members, organizations and school administrators," the statement said.
"Our goal throughout this process has been to keep the peace, respond to community concerns and to work with local business owners to ensure they are aware of the concerns that have been brought forward.
"The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to working with business owners and concerned community stakeholders to address the matter."
-- with files by Kevin Rollason