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Town of Hay River votes to forgo pot plebiscite

The Town of Hay River held a special meeting on Monday evening to discuss the option of a cannabis plebiscite.

With the incoming cannabis legalization, communities have the option to hold a plebiscite to prohibit or restrict the sale of cannabis in their community. The plebiscite option is available to a community until a cannabis store is designated for it by the territorial government.

The town council passed a motion at Monday’s meeting to forgo the plebiscite.

“To be perfectly honest, I have to accept what the council has agreed on,” says Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes, adding that he was in agreement with deputy mayor Jungkind, who felt the community should have had a plebiscite.

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“I believe that it’s a big decision for our community… I realize it’s going to be legalized Canada-wide, but it should be the residents of our community that kind of decide on it,” says Mayor Mapes.

The majority of council voted to forgo the plebiscite, with the exception of three councillors says Mapes.

“But I think it probably should have went back to our residents and let them make the decision themselves.”

The mayor wouldn’t say whether he had received any feedback from Hay River residents about the council’s decision, but says that the town council represents the community.

“As I said before, I have to accept what the council’s gone forward with,” mayor Mapes says.

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“I don’t always agree that it’s the right decision and I think this is a good example. It probably should’ve gone out to the community to be able to let them decide. I think that it would probably pass anyways with the residents but I think it gives an opportunity to the residents to speak their mind on the matter.”

The current model set up by the territorial government will see legal cannabis distributed through already existing local liquor stores in the community.

“Personally, I’m not going to be someone that’s lined up for liquor or for cannabis but obviously it’s going to increase the sales,” says Mapes.

The mayor says he thinks there are still questions that need to be asked about the incoming cannabis legislation. He gives the example of beer gardens and liquor sales that are permitted at community events.

“Are we going to have a cannabis garden? Are you going to allow that?” he asks.

“There’s a lot of questions that still need to be addressed.”

Mapes says he feels issues like that should have been brought to the public more.

“I know that the government consulted and everything and it is what it is. We have to accept it.”

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But Mayor Mapes says he feels the legalization process was rushed along.

“I think the territorial government had to make a decision to go forward because of the federal ruling on it,” says Mapes.

“I think it’s going to be something… that’s going to have to be looked at a few times over in the coming months, maybe years, to kind of adjust as needed. There was a lot of discussion with the public, they did go to a lot of the communities to try and ask the residents what they felt. I’m not one hundred per cent sure all the questions the residents had were answered.”

The federal government has said that cannabis will be legal sometime this summer.

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