By Trevor Busch
With roughly six weeks counting down to the federal government’s appointed date for cannabis legalization on Oct. 17, regional politicians are still hearing concerns from citizens and municipalities in the lead up.
Bow River MP Martin Shields is sympathetic to the plight of many local municipalities struggling to finalize their bylaws in time for legalization.
“While meeting with constituents, I’ve met with a number of councils. One council is up against it in the sense of timeline, they may have to have an emergency meeting to get the thing (specific bylaws) in place before October 17. That’s what they’re working on, is trying to get all of the things in place for their land use, for their bylaws, so that it can move forward.”
Proper training for law enforcement is key, says Shields, who isn’t confident that police will be able to grapple effectively with this challenge in the short term.
“From the policing side, it’s the amount of expertise to be able to do the testing that’s now said can be used, and how many people in the police forces are able to do the testing of the impaired piece, and that again is a challenge in order to have enough qualified people to do that. So police forces are challenged as well.”
While training is important, Shields also sees a potential legal quagmire on the horizon if the legislation and testing methods are challenged in the courts.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of court challenges, just like we did with the breathalyzer. We’re going to see a lot of court challenges that will lead us to one place or another with whatever mechanism is being used, and those appeals will go on for some time. So I think we’re going to see a lot of legal challenges happen.”
Hammering out municipal bylaws has been a hit and miss prospect in many municipalities, including Taber, which recently saw cannabis amendments to its Land Use Bylaw shot down by town council at second reading in a 3-3 tie vote in mid-July, leading the town back to the drawing board.
“Taber’s got a situation — the vote that happened in Taber was a tie vote, which was lost,” said Shields. “Again, this has put municipalities in a place where they’re up against the timelines really hard, and it’s making it difficult to get it done. But they’re going to try to get something in place. So that’s one of the issues that I see and hear, is municipalities trying to get everything in place to cover all the legal aspects that involve them.”