Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Nick Eagland
Page: A1


B.C. municipalities intend to debate next week how to press the
provincial government to include them in its plans for cannabis as
federal legalization approaches.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities will vote on a special resolution at
its annual convention next Wednesday.

The resolution, which addresses their role in a provincial cannabis
framework ahead of federal legalization expected next July, was put
forth by the union's executive.

It calls for "fulsome and meaningful" consultation with Victoria,
adequate provincial funding to cover costs related to implementing its
framework, a fair share of taxes for cities and respect for
municipalities' "choice, jurisdiction and authority" with regards to
land use, zoning and other city hall concerns.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he will address some of
these concerns at the convention. The UBCM found only seven per cent
of members who responded to a survey it conducted last spring had been
directly consulted by the federal government, its cannabis-legalization
task force or the provincial government.

About 79 per cent said downloading of duties onto local governments
was one of their top three concerns, followed by public safety issues
(46 per cent) and respect for jurisdiction and authority (44 per cent).

"I want to make sure that they are consulted and that they are able to
have their say," Farnworth said. "That, to me, is particularly important."

Farnworth said the province has met with federal officials to discuss
legalization and expressed concerns about the legalization timeline.
He said it's imperative regulations are carefully designed so that
organized criminals are excluded and children are protected.

"Those should be your priorities, not how much money you're going to
make," he said.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who represents Metro Vancouver on the
union's executive, said he's among municipal staff who feel senior
levels of government haven't been listening to their pressing concerns
about legalization.

"We're just kind of being ignored," he said. "Which is too bad,
because we're the ones who are going to have to implement it."

Baldwin wants to know whether B.C. will follow Ontario's lead by
having cannabis sales run by its liquor board or work on an ad hoc
basis by relying on dispensaries like Vancouver and other cities.

According to the UBCM survey, about 55 per cent of the respondents
said that their board or council hadn't expressed a preference while
the rest were split between dispensaries (11 per cent), liquor stores
(seven per cent), existing retail stores (seven per cent) and any
federally regulated or other model. Land use and zoning bylaws are the
key means by which municipalities would regulate a dispensary model,
Baldwin said.

"It has to go through public hearings and all that stuff, and it just
makes it that much more difficult for someone to throw up a pop-up
shop," he said.

Executive member Kerry Jang, a Vancouver city councillor, said the
resolution was drafted in response to the federal government ignoring
municipalities on legalization and the previous provincial government
not talking about it.

Early conversations with Farnworth suggest this will change, Jang

"Because the federal government has been so poor at actually sharing
information across the country - both provincially and municipally -
people are taking it upon themselves to drive the agenda," Jang said.

He said Ontario's liquor-board decision and Vancouver's proliferation
of dispensaries are examples of this.

"The lower levels of government are absolutely driving the national
agenda given that the federal government has been so weak on it, in
terms of their discussions and sharing of information," Jang said.

But cities don't want to fund the federal initiative through their own
property taxes, he said.

"We're not asking for anything special," he said.

"We're just asking for a seat at the table and for the ability to use
the marijuana tax money to pay for the very enforcement of their new
laws, because we cannot burden our property owners to do this."
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