By Tahreem Fatima 
BELLEVILLE – Almost 80 per cent of Belleville residents support opening marijuana retail stores, a survey by city council  suggests.
A report on the survey’s results was released to QNet News Thursday by city policy planner Thomas Deming, its author. According to the report, 2,263 responses to the survey were received; 78.4 per cent of respondents were in favour of allowing retail cannabis sales, while 21.3 per cent opposed it.
The report says support for a retail store was basically driven by the idea of economic opportunity in the city, rather than by a demand for personal consumption. Just under 73 per cent of those who supported the idea said it was because they believe the store will benefit the economy of the community and the money generated could be directed to other development projects like tourism and new businesses.
Those who opposed the idea said they have concerns that the sale of marijuana will increase crime, make pot more easily accessible, and place youth especially at higher risk. The survey also found concerns that the use of marijuana will increase impaired driving.
According to the report, the largest number of responses to the survey – 23. 5 per cent – came from residents between the ages of 25 and 35. That age group makes up approximately 11.8 per cent of the city’s population, according to Deming.
People aged 65 and older accounted for only 10.8 per cent of responses, but seniors are Belleville’s largest age group, representing approximately 21.2 per cent of the city’s population, the report notes.
The survey was released by the city on Dec.12. It had 15 questions, and the last day to submit responses was Jan. 4.