Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jul 2017
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Randy Richmond
Page: A1


A year ago, the marijuana boss for the city of Denver laid out for
Ontario municipalities just how deep an impact the legalization of the
drug could have on their cities and towns.

She should know. Recreational pot use was legalized in Colorado in

Youth programs, zoning near schools and daycares, odour control,
electricity usage, licensing, inspection, policing, public health -
the long list of things to think about took Ashley Kilroy, the
executive director of marijuana policy, about 45 minutes just to
outline to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) at its
annual conference last August.

"It's been a lot of work. It's been a challenge," Kilroy

A year later, and that much closer to the federal government's planned
legalization of pot for recreational use, the challenges in Ontario
loom that much closer, the questions even more pressing:

* What will the impact on Ontario municipalities be?

* Will they be ready?

* Who's going to pay for all the extra work that has to be

"Like I like to say, we're the Rodney Dangerfields of government, we
get no respect," Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said.

"We weren't consulted and now we have to make it work. We're in the
basement dealing with the practical realities."

Bradley is one of a handful of mayors, including Toronto's John Tory,
going public with concerns about the impact and costs of the marijuana

If the federal Liberals stick to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's
election vow, recreational pot use will be legal come July 1 next year.

In a July 17 letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Tory expressed
"significant concerns" about the distribution and regulation of
marijuana sales.

"I am also certain that a big part of the enforcement of these
regulations will be on the shoulders of municipalities, whether
through licensing, zoning bylaw enforcement or municipal policing,"
Tory wrote.

Those shoulders need some muscle, in the form of money from the
province, Tory suggested.

Spurred by Bradley, Lambton County council recently voted to ask the
province for a share of tax revenue from marijuana sales to deal with
the impact of the legislation.


Despite some major differences between how Denver and Ontario
municipalities operate, that city's annual report on marijuana sales
and Kilroy's remarks outline many of the impacts on civic operations,
public health and policing from legalizing marijuana.

Denver' s marijuana office-staffed by five - works with 13 agencies
and departments each day to handle all the different ways the drug
affects operations, Kilroy said.

Over two years, the city has hired 55 people to handle the work and
has asked for another nine, Kilroy said.

All of the city's marijuana-related revenue from taxes and licensing,
about $12 million to 14 million a year, goes into regulation,
education, enforcement and public health.

Marijuana has had an impact on almost every city department. A few

* Planning: Deciding where can dispensaries go (300 metres from schools, 
rehabilitation centres and other dispensaries, and only after public 

* Fire department: Ensuring grow and extraction operations are safe
from fire and other hazards

* Police: Enforcing compliance with the rules, handling potential 
increased crime

* City attorney's office: Creating and updating policies

* Parks and recreation: Dealing with complaints about people smoking
in public spaces.

* Technical services: Maintaining a database on licences,
dispensaries, health and social impacts.

* Children's services and public health: Education, especially to
protect youth. "It has been definitely labourintensive," Kilroy said.


Ontario municipalities know a lot of work is coming their

"Whenever there is major legislation, there is a trickle-down effect.
It always ends on the lap of municipal government," said AMO president
Lynn Dollin, deputy mayor of the town of Innisfil.

"We need, first of all, for them (the province) to listen to us, so we
don't end up with unintended consequences. As far as sitting down with
the provincial government, we've just started that process. I don't
think there is a lot of time, but we can learn from other
municipalities," Dollin said.

Sarnia's mayor doesn't have a lot of confidence in AMO getting things
done on time.

"I'm not a big fan of the AMO doing anything. They are like the
Titanic, they are hard to turn around," Bradley said.

"We are going to struggle to deal with all the issues in the time

He hopes Lambton and Toronto's call for answers on revenue-sharing and
regulations will spread across Ontario and spur its government to action.

The debate over how to push things along is just surfacing in

In an interview, Mayor Matt Brown said he'd prefer municipalities
approach the province as one, and plans to raise the issue again at
the Mayors of Southwestern Ontario meeting at this year's AMO conference.

"It is importance we develop a single voice and something be
established that is provincewide," Brown said.

He pointed to the patchwork of pesticide and smoking bylaws that once
dotted Ontario before provincewide rules were established.

But two London council members, Jared Zaifman and Jesse Helmer, want
city staff to begin working on zoning rules and consulting with police
and the health unit now to be ready for legalization next summer.


If there's one thing everyone at the municipal level agrees on, it's
that they're going to need more money.

"In terms of impact, I think it is entirely reasonable for all of us
to expect some sort of revenue-sharing plan to cover the costs," Brown

Municipalities can be forgiven for worrying about getting all the
dollars needed to do their jobs, said Joseph Lyons, director of local
government at Western University.

The downloading onto municipalities of provincial services under
former premier Mike Harris left a hangover that remains, despite
efforts since to ease the strain. But municipalities still get left
out of the conversations that matter most to them, Lyons said.

"With a lot of these things, municipalities feel like they're not
being consulted. They feel ignored."

At the same time ,"they have a lot of work to do to get things in
place. It's a pretty tight deadline. Municipalities will be scrambling
if that deadline is to be met," Lyons said.

Hardly anyone knows what to expect.

"There are a lot of unknowns right now. There could be a huge amount
of work put on us," said London police Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth.

He already can foresee needing more drug recognition experts, police
officers trained to recognize signs of non-alcohol drug impairment,
and often being required to testify in court.

But it's not clear what the impact will be on frontline staffing,
Longworth said.

In Denver, police enforce the regulations. But how far does that go?
Longworth wonders.

Will police be expected to take on the onerous task of checking every
backyard for the correct number of plants allowed by

That seems unlikely, but police forces will expect more funding to
enforce the legislation, Longworth said. But he's quick to turn the
conversation to the need for funding for education and other measures
to protect youth. Take a look at how illegal storefront pot stores are
marketing marijuana products, Longworth said: gummy bears and
lollipops. "Obviously, it is geared toward the youth market." Science
has shown that early and frequent use of marijuana can delay
development and change the brain, said Vaughan Dowie, chief executive
of the Pine River Institute, an addiction treatment facility in
Toronto. "Governments will be making money. Some of that money needs
to be invested in aggressive and sustained public education." Cannabis
is the No. 1 drug identified by youths at the facility, and they think
it's relatively harmless, Dowie said.

What happens when marijuana becomes more pervasive?

"How do we counterattack that to make sure kids understand there is
some risk in this?" he asked.

More money also has go into treatment, Dowie said.

There already are 200 children and families on a year-and-a-half
waiting list for addiction treatment at Pine River, he said

Pam Hill, director of clinical services for Thames Valley Addiction
Services, agreed.

"Inevitably, there will be a portion of the community whose use
becomes problematic or addictive and creates similar impacts as
alcohol and other substances that people use, often with the intent of
being recreational," she said.

But if the funding follows the same path as proceeds from gambling, it
may not be enough for local agencies, Hill said.

The government directs two per cent of gross revenue from slot
machines to fund problem gambling services.

But that's a small portion of overall gambling activities, Hill said,
and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has pushed for one per
cent of all gambling revenues in Ontario to cover the costs of
education, prevention and addiction to gambling.

Sarnia's Bradley can remember leading the negotiations for the
municipal share of slot machines when Ontario moved into gambling.

"It took us a year and a half to get the five per cent. The province's
original position was zero."

As usual, the money from marijuana may become the stickiest

There's general agreement municipalities have to get some, but how
much and in what form are still uncertain.

Municipalities likely would prefer annual grants with no strings
attached, Lyons said.

But that leads to the temptation to use the money for purposes other
than marijuana-related efforts, he said.

"That blurs the line of accountability."

Municipal leaders argue they know their communities the best, and need
to be flexible in how they spend dollars.

"Municipal levels of government are the most nimble of any level of
government," Dillon said.

Taxpayers let municipal politicians know when they don't like how
they're spending money, Bradley said.

"If we're using money improperly, the public is going to call us out
on that."

How much money legal pot will bring to Canada, the provinces and
municipalities remains unknown, but it's estimated tax revenues could
reach $5 billion a year.

With all the challenges legal marijuana brings, Pine River's Dowie
knows exactly what to expect.

"Everybody will have their hand out in some form or another."
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