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Most OK with neighbourhood pot store: poll

Ron Ward / The Canadian Press Files</p>

Ron Ward / The Canadian Press Files

There is no huffing and puffing of Not In My Backyard — in fact, a majority of Manitobans is mellow about the prospect of a marijuana store opening in their neighbourhood, a new poll has found.

Probe Research surveyed 1,000 Manitobans from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24 and found 58 per cent of people would feel comfortable if a marijuana store opened in their area once the federal government legalizes cannabis next summer.

In Winnipeg, 61 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of marijuana shops, while rural Manitobans were 51 per cent pro-neighbourhood pot.

"This is a strong majority of Manitobans who are cool with a pot shop opening in their neighbourhood," said Mary Agnes Welch, a Probe Research associate. "I think that's a healthy number for a lot of municipalities who are right now trying to decide whether to allow marijuana stores to open."

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There is no huffing and puffing of Not In My Backyard — in fact, a majority of Manitobans is mellow about the prospect of a marijuana store opening in their neighbourhood, a new poll has found.

Probe Research surveyed 1,000 Manitobans from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24 and found 58 per cent of people would feel comfortable if a marijuana store opened in their area once the federal government legalizes cannabis next summer.

In Winnipeg, 61 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of marijuana shops, while rural Manitobans were 51 per cent pro-neighbourhood pot.

"This is a strong majority of Manitobans who are cool with a pot shop opening in their neighbourhood," said Mary Agnes Welch, a Probe Research associate. "I think that's a healthy number for a lot of municipalities who are right now trying to decide whether to allow marijuana stores to open."

At least 10 of 94 Manitoba municipalities the Free Press spoke to in December won't allow pot sales, including Beausejour, Gimli and Lac du Bonnet.

According to Probe's numbers, 40 per cent of Manitobans aren't comfortable with marijuana stores opening in their neighbourhoods and three per cent are unsure.

Younger Manitobans (ages 18 to 34) were most likely to feel comfortable with the stores, as were supporters of the provincial Liberals and NDP. 

Devin Sprague, who manages National Access Cannabis on Broadway, said the poll results reflect the "warm reception" his medical marijuana shop has received since opening in March. He expects Manitobans' comfort levels will grow once legalization hits.

"I think knowledge and more safe access is going to make more people comfortable with (cannabis stores). So I definitely think you’ll see an increase in more people open to having them in their neighbourhood," Sprague said.

National Access Cannabis, which is headquartered in Ottawa, partnered with three Manitoba First Nations to submit a request for proposal to the Manitoba government. They hope to open "many" recreational cannabis stores across the province, Sprague said, noting they would avoid setting up in suburban areas densley populated with schools.

He wouldn't publicly disclose just how many stores they have planned until the province confirms its final four proposal contenders in February. The Manitoba government announced recently it had received more than 100 proposals from would-be cannabis retailers.

Ric Macl, who owns Brandon-based medical marijuana store Growers and Smokers, also submitted an RFP. He bought an extra 900 sq. ft. of empty space beside his business on 18th Street in hopes of adding a dispensary post-legalization.

Since opening Growers and Smokers nine months ago, he said the store only had one detractor, who wrongly assumed they were operating illegally. Otherwise business has been steady with 2,000 transactions since Canada Day, Macl said. 

"I came out and put up a big sign on a main street in town. It's got a pot leaf on it, it's got a medical sign on it ... You couldn't be anymore blatant than me," the owner said. 

"A decade ago, there was no chance in hell that anybody would do something like that." 

As attitudes shift, some wonder whether marijuana stores could pose a safety risk — although those people seem to be in the minority, said Trevor Siwak, an administrator with the North Kildonan Community Watch group. 

In talking with his group's members — whom alert one another about property crime, robberies and other local happenings via social media — Siwak said the vast majority don't believe a marijuana store would be dangerous. 

"Is (a cannabis store) going to get robbed more? Maybe. It's got stuff people want. But a new 7-Eleven or liquor store might bring more robberies into the area, too," Siwak said.

"Some people said, 'The people who are going to be going to the legal marijuana shops aren't the people that I'm worried about,'" he relayed. "It's people that are still going to use the illegal dealers, street dealers and stuff, that might be more concerning." 

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislative reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 6:34 AM CST: Adds photo

10:10 AM: Adds graphic

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