Pubdate: Fri, 09 Feb 2018
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Authors: Tom Zytaruk and Amy Reid


Surrey mulls over 'missteps' from U.S. cities that have legalized

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says the city has developed a "balanced,
appropriate and evidence-based approach" in preparing for the expected
passing of the Trudeau government's Bill C45 Cannabis Act this coming

"Like all governments, the City of Surrey must determine the changes
needed to ensure an effective response to cannabis legalization,"
Hepner said. "Our report was prepared following a comprehensive review
of best practices in jurisdictions of the United States with legal
recreational cannabis markets. Council and I have directed staff to
implement the necessary steps outlined in the framework over the
coming months."

Surrey's Cannabis Legalization Report - A Framework for Action
includes a review of existing context for federal and provincial
regulations on cannabis, lessons learned from the United States
experience, an overview of the medical uses and potential risks
associated with weed, and "implementation of checklists for zoning and
land use, bylaws and regulations, inspection and enforcement, revenue
and economic development and education and public engagement."

Currently, Surrey does not permit dispensaries, like other cities such
as Vancouver. "We have not permitted anyone to set up," said
Councillor Mike Starchuk. "We don't want people to think they've got
their foot in the door."

Once legalization is complete, Starchuk noted, the city will only have
control over zoning bylaws, where operations will be permitted to set
up and in what proximity they will be to other amenities, such as
schools and parks and rehab centres.

Last year, Starchuk, along with city staff, and delegates from RCMP
and Fraser Health, went on a tour of several U.S. cities that have
already gone through legalization, including Denver, Seattle and Portland.

"We got to see what the missteps were and I think more importantly, we
got to see the financial burden - and I'm going to call it a burden -
that it has the potential to place on municipalities," explained
Starchuk."We asked, 'If you could re-do this again, what the knowledge
you now have, what would your changes be?"

In many of the cities visited, business license costs were higher than
anticipated, so Starchuk said Surrey plans to look at their overall
costs before determining that fee.

"We know this industry in other U.S. jurisdictions asked for more
scrutiny to ensure the legitimacy of the business. It will add costs
to the city with inspections and compliance issues (to do with) fire
and bylaws, and possibly enforcement issues for bylaw and RCMP."

Some cities, he noted, have set up "cannabis bureaus" with staff
solely responsible for the stores that sell cannabis or businesses
that produce or manufacture.

Meantime, Seattle and Portland saw an increase in policing costs due
to a spike in impaired driving, said Starchuk.

"What we saw in Denver was a lot of statistical data that there was
increased level of impairment for drivers after the recreational sale
of cannabis," he said. "We know there's no machine you blow into that
provides that data, and blood tests don't really work in all cases
because of the length of time the THC levels of cannabis stay in your
system. We know RCMP are going to be faced with determining your level
of impairmentÂ… There is training that can happen that correlates to
their skill level to be able to determine that level of impairment. So
how many people will have to be trained like this?"

Starchuk said he's awaiting more information on the province related
to personal cultivation because he heard on the tour that "personal
cultivation has the potential to have a different effect on society
and hopefully the provincial government will see it the same way."

Starchuk said how the province will license the retail side of things
is also unknown. "With liquor, there are only so many licences in the
province," he noted.

Starchuk said there hasn't been a huge influx of interest, but some
growers and retailers are beginning to inquire with city hall. But, he
said, "we've made it abundantly clear that we are not allowing any
businesses to be established in the city until we have everything in

Starchuk also noted that Surrey has a plethora of Agricultural Land
Reserve property in Surrey, where growth of cannabis is a permitted
use. "We don't know yet if companies are going to come knocking."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt