AL­BERTA TOWN THAT FOUGHT BACK AGAINST LE­GAL­IZA­TION NOW BRAC­ING FOR BUD

Some res­i­dents claim ‘ev­ery­one’ al­ready smokes up in the town that fa­mously banned spit­ting, yelling and swear­ing

StarMetro Edmonton - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN MAIMANN

Af­ter Taber coun­cil voted in favour, one res­i­dent rushed ap­pli­ca­tion for dis­pen­sary thes­tar.com

TABER—A sign paid for by an an­tiabor­tion group looms over a church park­ing lot di­rectly across from Taber’s town hall. The black-and-white sign reads, “Love Life, Save the Fam­ily,” around a large cross and a sil­hou­ette of a fam­ily.

It’s not a jar­ring sight in the small, fa­mously con­ser­va­tive town in south­ern Al­berta.

Taber has just one main street, but 16 churches serv­ing its pop­u­la­tion of 8,400. Its coun­cil passed a by­law in 2015 that bans yelling, scream­ing, swear­ing and loi­ter­ing in pub­lic. Out­side the po­lit­i­cal sphere, Taber is known as the Corn Cap­i­tal of Canada, a brand that in­spires coun­ter­feit Taber Corn stands across the prov­ince ev­ery sum­mer.

Last Novem­ber, Taber coun­cil­lors asked the Al­berta Ur­ban Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion to lobby against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s plan to le­gal­ize cannabis, and in Au­gust, they voted to ban pub­lic use of the drug. And yet, mar­i­juana users found cause for cel­e­bra­tion on Sept. 24 when the coun­cil voted 4-3 to al­low dis­pen­saries in town, as long as they are 100 me­tres or far­ther from schools and hos­pi­tals.

The nar­row vic­tory can be at­trib­uted in part to peo­ple like Bruce De­coste, a for­mer oil­field worker who at­tended meet­ings for months to ad­vo­cate for what he be­lieves is a silent ma­jor­ity of 420-friendly Taberites.

“I spent eight months with them on ev­ery coun­cil meet­ing be­cause I was push­ing for it. I think every­body gave up, but I didn’t. I kept go­ing and go­ing and go­ing. And then fi­nally they al­lowed it,” said De­coste.

His cur­rent store, Reck­less Vape Shop, is highly vis­i­ble along a ma­jor high­way and sells mar­i­juana-re­lated ac­ces­sories. He said long-haul truck­ers of­ten stop in to buy his prod­ucts. Speak­ing in­side his bright-green store last Thurs­day, De­coste said he plans to open the first pot shop in Taber.

“I ac­tu­ally picked up my ap­pli­ca­tion yes­ter­day from the town. So it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

De­coste wor­ried that with­out re­tail stores in town, peo­ple would drive to nearby mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties like Leth­bridge to get pot. Some might then buy gro­ceries and run other er­rands while they were out, leav­ing Taber busi­nesses in the dust.

De­spite Taber’s con­ser­va­tive rep­u­ta­tion, De­coste said peo­ple are smok­ing pot all over town, even if they’re not do­ing it out in the open. The 53-year-old said ev­ery­one who comes through his doors, from age 18 to 80, tells him they al­ready use it.

“Every­body smokes cannabis in this town. It’s huge,” he said. “It’s just the peo­ple who are against it just hap­pen to be in power.”

Coun­cil­lor Joe Stro­jwas has been a vo­cal op­po­nent of le­gal­iza­tion and voted against al­low­ing re­tail stores. He said Ot­tawa did not do enough con­sul­ta­tion with com­mu­ni­ties and has not made money avail­able to help them deal with the change.

“It’s just be­ing rammed down our throats be­cause the gov­ern­ment needs more money. That’s it in a nut­shell. We’re not ready for this. No com­mu­nity is,” he said.

Stro­jwas, who owns Taber Cold Beer and Liquor Store, said sell­ing al­co­hol is dif­fer­ent be­cause he be­lieves it’s eas­ier to tell when some­one is in­tox­i­cated from al­co­hol, and there­fore eas­ier to stop serv­ing them be­fore they overindulge.

“Ev­ery­thing is good in mod­er­a­tion. Same with gam­bling; it’s good in mod­er­a­tion, smok­ing is good in mod­er­a­tion, al­co­hol — ev­ery­thing is good in mod­er­a­tion. But how do you deal with the so­cial con­se­quences of peo­ple who overindulge in any of this here?” Stro­jwas said.

“WE’RE NOT READY FOR THIS. NO COM­MU­NITY IS.”

Coun­cil­lor Joe Stro­jwas

CODIE MCLACH­LAN FOR STARMETRO ED­MON­TON

Reck­less Vape Shop owner Bruce De­coste in his store in Taber, Alta. He spent eight months at­tend­ing coun­cil meet­ings ad­vo­cat­ing for mar­i­juana. He’s now hop­ing to open Taber’s first pot shop.

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