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COLUMN: Municipalities need cannabis taxes to trickle down

Cannabis was officially made legal in Canada at 12:00 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2018
Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express Editor

By the time you are reading this, cannabis will be officially legal to produce, sell and consume for recreational purposes in Canada.

Assuming the country hasn’t collapsed into a post-apocalyptic anarchy — I would assume not many have noticed the difference between last Wednesday and this Wednesday, other than a few more media stories on the topic.

While likely unnoticed, the feat is by no means a small one.

The Trudeau government’s mandate to federally regulate a cannabis industry in Canada makes the country one of the first to break prohibition — with a 7/10 majority of Canadians being in favour of legalization, according to a June 2016 poll by Nanos Research.

This is a progressive move by the Trudeau Liberals that will hopefully take a bite out of the black market and create a legal market that will excise tax dollars similar to that of alcohol and tobacco.

The roll out of legalization by the Feds, however, was not quite as progressive — with municipalities being forced to draft legislation on short timelines, with many of them initially having very little background information on how cannabis legalization will affect their communities.

It is therefore commendable that the municipalities this publication serves — the City of Lacombe, Lacombe County, and the Town of Blackfalds — were able to draft bylaws that not only allow for new business opportunities and cater to those who will consume legal, recreational cannabis; but also address the concerns of those who will not.

It was a predicament that was clearly not a simple one for municipalities, with many of them facing a vocal minority of people whole-heartily against cannabis legalization or consumption of any kind.

Given that, it is sensible that each of these municipalities created consumption bylaws that limited use to private residences — where it was commonly happening before legalization anyway.

Really, it was a lose-lose for municipalities that I believe will eventually end up being a win.

There will always be people diametrically opposed to cannabis legalization and there will always be people who feel government has drafted too repressive bylaws on consumption. A compromise had to be reached and I believe it has been.

The next issue that municipalities will face is how will the taxes collected be trickled down to those who implemented legislation. Currently, the Province of Alberta has promised $11.2 million in grant money to help municipalities cover implementation and enforcement in the first two years — but the City of Edmonton has already stated that their costs will be over $12 million alone.

This means the Federal and Provincial Governments need to ensure that tax dollars are passed down to the municipalities to help cover the costs that were put upon them.