By Nikki Jamieson
The M.D. of Taber has more questions than answers when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana use.
During their regular July 11 meeting, the Municipal District of Taber met with Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop, where he expressed his concerns on upcoming cannabis legalization.
With Bill C-45 — the Cannabis Act — expected to come into force on July 1, 2018, municipalities have been looking for answers on how it will be enforced and legislated.
“We understand, in Canada, there are approximately 37,000 tobacco-related deaths each year,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. “We find it curious that a Government of Canada would advocate for an increased use of a product whose health impacts are not known. It seems like we’re repeating history here with what happened with tobacco.”
“So there is some belief that the legislation is moving faster than we can understand its impacts.”
In a copy of a letter to Bow River MP Martin Shields from the town, the town council had passed a motion to request that “the Alberta Urban Municipalities (AUMA) petition the Government of Alberta, and further the Government of Canada, to not allow the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) to pertain to municipalities in the Province of Alberta.”
At Taber town council’s regular June 26 meeting, Prokop had also slammed the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association for not taking a stance on the issue.
After the meeting, M.D. council had passed a motion to provide a letter of support for the Town of Taber’s resolution, and instructed Krizsan to draft a resolution pertaining to the Cannabis Act that the M.D. could bring through the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, with a focus on the act permitting youth as young as 12 years old to be in possession of up to five grams of marijuana, according to Krizsan.
“Council has concerns — among other things — about that provision in the act.”
The M.D. also has concerns about the science and law enforcement not being developed enough for officers to conduct road-side impairment tests for marijuana, and the speed of the process creating more problems then it says it will solve. Health, social and legal issues are also a concern.
Stressing that the M.D. is taking a different approach to the issue than the town, Krizsan said that it would be “a little premature” to decide on the fate of legalized marijuana in the M.D. right now, saying that they would prefer to get some answers from the province first.
“Part of the responsibility of the provincial government is to determine how a product is retailed and distributed, retail locations and roles, rules, regulatory compliance, public consumption, all of those are within the mandate of the province of Alberta to implement,” said Krizsan. “The government of Canada develops legislation — take for example alcohol, where they permitted the sale of alcohol. It was up to the province to determine how that product would be retailed and distributed within the province of Alberta, and as part of the regulations for new retail outlets, municipal governments have the ability to determine where retail outlets for alcohol can be located, what type of zoning, where is an appropriate location. I anticipate that process would be similar for cannabis-type products.”
“Right now, we have very little or no information pertaining to how the province of Alberta is planning to regulate the product and how they plan on distributing. Until we have an idea on what they’re planning on doing in terms of legislation, it’s difficult to evaluate the impact on municipalities or how we handle that.”