City preparing for legal marijuana

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The city of St. Albert plans to begin making bylaws in January to prepare for the legalization of marijuana.

This week the provincial government tabled two pieces of legislation, which may help the city move forward with planning for the legalization of the drug on July 1, 2018.

St. Albert City Manager Kevin Scoble said that the city has put together a task force and staff are preparing to bring a framework and suggestions forward to council in the new year.

“We are in the process of evaluating it to understand the local impacts and what additional activities and cost the city may incur,” Scoble said.

One of the goals for the city is to stay relatively consistent with the bylaws and regulations in the region. Scoble said that city employees are in contact with other municipalities in the region to ensure there are not big changes between each municipality.

“It’s important particularly in the Edmonton metropolitan region to have some consistency between the different municipalities so you don’t have different rules going from one municipality to the next,” Scoble said.

The city will have to primarily tackle zoning and licensing of businesses.

St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said she doesn’t expect there to be massive costs associated with legalization but would still like to get funding from the province nonetheless.

“We are not asking to generate a lot. We just want cost recovery,” Heron said. “I haven’t seen any numbers yet but I don’t think its going to be a huge cost. I just think that cost needs to be recognized.”

Last week the federal government announced a revenue framework that taxes marijuana at $1 per gram or 10 per cent on the final retail price, whichever is higher. The plan also includes splitting the revenue evenly between the federal government and provinces with no mention of funding for municipalities.

Heron said that she is “not very optimistic at all” that the city will be getting money from the province for cost recovery.

The city has not set aside any funding from the 2018 budget to allocate to marijuana and they will be pulling from the stabilization reserve instead because the drug will be legalized mid-year. Scoble said that there are currently no cost projections for the first year and it is difficult to predict how much it will cost the city.

“We would budget accordingly going forward in ‘19 and ‘20 when we have a better idea on what we are going to be facing here,” Scoble said.

Scoble said that after talking with mid-sized cities in Colorado he anticipates costs to go up in the second and third year after the legislation is implemented.

The city manager also said that he already has had some inquiries from potential vendors interested in setting up shop in the city.

Provincial legislation introduced this week laid out the framework for the rules and regulation for sale and consumption across the province. Many of the regulations were proposed in October and the government called on Albertans to deliver feedback.

The provincial government plans to run online sales of cannabis while private retailers will be able to operate brick and mortar shops. Pot shops will have to be separate from pharmaceutical, tobacco and alcohol retailers. The stores would only be able to sell cannabis and cannabis related products.

Alberta plans to set no limit for the amount of shops that are licensed to sell cannabis but may initially introduce restrictions for the number of stores a single retailer can open and operate to prevent wealthy corporations from gaining a monopoly.

The minimum age to purchase cannabis will be set at 18 years old with zero tolerance for youth possession. Albertans will be allowed to grow four plants inside their home.

The drug will be legal on July 1, 2018.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.