Pubdate: Tue, 26 Sep 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jennifer Saltman
Page: A5


The federal decision to legalize is going to have a significant impact
on the country, provinces and local governments.

The provincial government has given itself just over five weeks to
gather input from municipalities, the public and other stakeholders
about non-medical cannabis regulation in B.C.

It's an ambitious deadline, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor
General Mike Farnworth conceded on Monday during the Union of B.C.
Municipalities (UBCM) conference in Vancouver as he announced the
province's plans for public consultations.

The goal is to collect feedback in time to draft legislation for the
spring legislative session and be ready when the federal government
legalizes marijuana next July.

"This is a critical issue for British Columbia and British Columbians,
and we're operating on a very tight timeline - July of 2018 is not
that far away," Farnworth said.

The province will gather input from as many interested parties as

Farnworth said they will form a standing committee on cannabis
legalization with the UBCM comprised of representatives and technical
experts from both the union and the province.

He called the committee "absolutely critical" to getting buy-in from
local governments and learning the municipal point of view on issues
such as retail systems, zoning and licensing, revenue sharing,
enforcement and education.

"Local governments welcome the start of the consultation process as we
move toward creating a madein-B.C. approach to legalization," UBCM
president Murry Krause said. "Our members want to discuss issues like
taxation, retail sales and personal cultivation in advance of the
regulatory framework being set in place. The proposed standing
committee sounds like a vehicle to support discussions."

A website has been set up for members of the public to visit and
submit their opinions, and a random telephone survey will be conducted.

There will also be meetings with representatives from local
governments, First Nations and stakeholders from law enforcement,
health, agriculture and the cannabis industry.

"The federal decision to legalize is going to have a significant
impact on the country, provinces and local governments," Farnworth
told UBCM session attendees. "It's important that we get it right."

The topic of marijuana legalization and the role municipalities will
play in developing and administering policies is a big agenda item for
the approximately 1,800 attendees at this year's conference.

In addition to two sessions dedicated to legalization, the UBCM
executive has put forth a resolution calling for consultation with the
provincial government, 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
regard to land use, zoning and the like.

To date, municipalities have felt snubbed by the federal government as
the legalization process has progressed.

Kerry Jang, a Vancouver city councillor and UBCM executive member who
has been critical of the federal and provincial governments, said he
was disappointed the role of local government had not been talked
about before. He said he could hardly believe it when he heard the
province was going to seek opinions from municipalities.

"This is a fantastic opportunity," he said. "For how many years now
municipalities have been ignored at the federal and provincial level,
certainly with the old government. To find out we're having a full
public consultation, not just with the municipalities but also a cross
section of British Columbians, is very, very important and it's the
right way to go."

During a session on legalizing cannabis in B.C., elected officials
from communities large and small, rural and urban talked about their
concerns and the models they would like to see.

Public safety, particularly when it comes to children, is at the top
of the list of concerns. Ensuring there is proper support from the
federal and provincial governments is also important to

"This is not our job, this is not our desire and this is not our
decision, so we must have agreements to deal with cost-sharing, and if
there is any revenue - and I'm not certain there will be - then I
think it's also incredibly reasonable to think we have some revenue
sharing as well," said Victoria's acting mayor, Marianne Alto.

In terms of models, some suggested the one chosen by Ontario, which
will see marijuana sold by the provincial liquor distribution branch.

"It has to be simple, and if it's not simple it's going to be very
hard to deal with. Ontario's solution sounds like a quick and dirty
way to do it, and it's effective, I think - and maybe that's a good
starting point," White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said.

Others would like to see something more flexible.

Nelson Mayor Debra Kozak suggested an ideal plan would include a
provision for a co-op of farmers in her area to produce "craft
cannabis" similar to craft beer instead of having to centralize operations.

Coun. Judy Greenaway, from the District of Fort St. James, said it
should not be a one-model-fits-all situation.

"We'd like to see something that's more tailored to the community,"
she said.
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