Cost of cannabis: How will Edmonton pay for enforcement?

Click to play video: 'Edmonton councillors debate how to enforce rules when recreational cannabis becomes legal' Edmonton councillors debate how to enforce rules when recreational cannabis becomes legal
WATCH ABOVE: With each day, recreational cannabis use is closer to becoming legal in Canada and Edmonton politicians have their hands full preparing for how the new rules and regulations will be enforced in Alberta's capital. Jack Haskins reports – Apr 3, 2018

Once the federal government makes recreational marijuana legal, Edmonton city council will try to find a balance when it comes to paying for cannabis enforcement.

When the rules change initially, Mayor Don Iveson says property taxes will rise to cover costs related to cannabis administration.

“The more regulation that we put on or the more limits we put on, of course there’s more cost to enforcing that,” Councillor Michael Walters said on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Up in smoke? Liberals say legal pot by July might be unrealistic

Anne McLellan, who chaired the task force that guided the Trudeau Liberals through the issue, says Finance Minister Bill Morneau was told to share more with the provinces and give them 75 per cent of the excise tax. McLellan urged Edmonton to go hard for enforcement money from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

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“The provinces aren’t going to give you a cent unless they are, quite honestly, pressured,” McLellan said. “I would not let the provinces get away with this… Sorry, spoken like a former federal politician.”

“Bottom line though is we still don’t have an answer from the province,” Iveson said. “The feds have said, ‘Here’s extra money for the provinces explicitly for the purpose of providing for the impact on municipalities.’

“We think it’s a few million dollars worth of bylaw enforcement issues we’re going to have to deal with and several million more in policing costs, in the $10- to $12-million range all put together — we’re still asking the provinces for a share of this.”

READ MORE: Policing legal pot in Edmonton will cost upwards of $7M: chief 

Edmonton’s Urban Planning Committee is still looking at how the rules will roll out. More details will come in May.

“The advice I heard today was to be a little more conservative out of the box and loosen as necessary,” Walters said.

“You know there is a spectrum of very puritanical to very liberal here and I think our proposals are somewhere in the middle of that because that’s probably where the public is.”

No work has been done to harmonize bylaws as they relate to cannabis use throughout greater Metro Edmonton.

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“We certainly need to make those efforts,” Walters said. “I wouldn’t say right now we’ve had conversations in earnest, politically, with all our metro neighbours, but I think that’s something that has to happen pretty quickly.”

READ MORE: Doobie dos and dont’s: Alberta outlines rules for retail marijuana sales 

Another topic discussed during Tuesday’s committee meeting was where cannabis stores will be allowed to set up shop.

The province already has a framework in place but the city is considering slightly stricter location restrictions.

“We need to plan where these stores can go and obviously we need to make room for there to be some stores, but we want to make sure that they’re away from schools, away from parks and that you’re not going to have cannabis store, cannabis store, cannabis store,” Iveson said.

A current proposal would see marijuana businesses be located at least 200 metres from schools and public libraries and at least 100 metres from public parks and recreational facilities.

“I think generally, people see it’s reasonable to decriminalize something that already has widespread use,” Walters said.

“If we can do it in such a way that protects the public, ensures that children and young people remain drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free — and doesn’t provide an unnecessary amount of red tape for the business community — that’s the sweet spot that we’re trying to get to here.”

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READ MORE: Marijuana industry has big questions as Calgary looks at banning pot in public 

When it comes to where people will be allowed to smoke marijuana, the city is considering a few options but won’t make any final decisions until May.

Some options include prohibiting consumption in public places or a framework similar to how smoking tobacco is currently enforced.

— With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston and Global’s Jack Haskins

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