Alberta cannabis company pulling out of Altona, Man.
WINNIPEG -- An Alberta-based company, which was set to open a retail cannabis store in the town of Altona, Man., has changed its mind.
The decision comes amid growing public opposition to pot sales in the community and a call from concerned citizens to hold a plebiscite on the issue.
Sheila Enns, who lives in the town, is disappointed by the news.
"I was surprised,” said Enns. “ I was very surprised.”
Altona was one of the communities chosen by the Manitoba government as a location for a retail cannabis outlet.
Calgary-based Westleaf, which was selected by the government to open a retail store, has now decided it won't be coming to Altona after all.
"I'm disappointed for the people that were preparing to have it here,” Enns said. “In that sense, it's too bad."
Despite growing public concern over the sale of cannabis, Westleaf said that's not why it pulled the plug.
The company's chief commercial officer said in a statement:
"Westleaf took into account many factors when it came to extending its retail presence in the market. It has decided to pivot in regard to opening a store in Altona as a result of the larger business strategy.”
A group in the town wants an outright ban on retail pot sales in Altona and has started a petition calling for a plebiscite. If it gets 620 signatures, the community will have to hold a vote.
"In order to say no, a plebiscite needs to be held,” said Al Friesen, mayor of Altona. “Until a plebiscite is held in any community, that community's considered open for business."
Friesen met with around 10 members of the community Wednesday who want to stop pot sales and said their concerns surround the product itself.
"As residents of the community, they did not really feel that that was something that they wanted here in terms of a retail operation," said Friesen.
Len Wolfe, who lives in Altona, doesn't have strong feelings towards the issue one way or the other but signed the group's petition so those who do, can have their say.
"I thought the public had a right to have that option, rather than it just be forced upon the town," said Wolfe.
Enns on the other hand, doesn't think a plebiscite is necessary.
"For the people that it affects, I know there’s lots of people that use it for aches and pains and sleeping and different things and for them to have to go a different community that would be too bad," said Enns.
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said a backup retailer will be contacted and given an opportunity to open in a store in the town, but said the company will be advised to stay in contact with the town.