Cannabis legalization is finally here this week, completing one of the election promises of the Trudeau Federal Government.
The City of Lacombe, along with every other municipality in the country, has spent a large portion of the last year drafting legislation that fits the needs of their communities in order to be compliant with the new federal mandate.
“I think we did the best we could under the circumstances that were handed to us via the federal and provincial governments,” Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey said. “Hopefully we struck a reasonable compromise in the way we have implemented the bylaws, reflecting people’s desires for the community.”
The City and the cannabis committee set out originally set out to create a business-friendly environment for cannabis retail, while also ensuring that consumption and land use bylaws fit the needs of the community.
“Right now we have four development applications in and two have been approved already,” Creasey said. “I think that Lacombe will not see any of those business open for business this week, not because of permitting but because of the requirements in place for security and other things.”
Creasey said enforcement of the new bylaws by bylaw officers and the Lacombe Police Service will be dependent upon adherence by the community.
“If enforcement is needed, they certainly have the tools to enforce it,” Creasey said. “Like any bylaw, there is flexibility there and they have the opportunity to provide education. People also have a great opportunity to look at the City of Lacombe website (lacombe.ca/cannabis).
“Like a lot of new things, it will be a wait and see. If there is substantial non-compliance — there will have to be some stricter measure put forward.”
The bylaws are also able to be adapted depending on the needs of the community, according to Creasey. This may become necessary if the Federal Government mandates cannabis edibles or cannabis consumption facilities — like cafes.
Creasey said the City has had some preliminary conversations regarding that.
“We are comfortable seeing how retail sales goes and making sure our consumption rules are closely followed. We look forward to new rules come down from the federal government, but until that happens — we are not making definite plans prior to that,” he said.
The Province of Alberta indicated this week that $11.2 will be available to municipalities through Municipal Cannabis Transition Program, which aligns with what the City heard at the recent Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference in Red Deer.
“At no time did they say our costs would be covered but at the AUMA annual event held in Red Deer, we were given a promise that the excised tax would be shared with the municipalities. That is the most encouraging sign we have had thus far,” he said, adding he expects the cost of administration and enforcement will be substantial.
The Province said in a release they expect a net financial loss in the first two years of cannabis implementation and they will continue to work with municipalities.
“Our cities and towns are the front lines when dealing with many aspects of cannabis legalization. This funding will help offset some of the costs they’re facing. I look forward to continue working with local leaders to understand the real-world effects of legalization,” Shaye Anderson, minister of Municipal Affairs, said.
Creasey added that the City has tried to be fair and transparent throughout this process that was handed down to them from the federal level.