A senior city staffer from Chilliwack has been appointed to a new regulation committee to provide the local government perspective as Canada gets closer to non-medical cannabis legalization by July 2018.
Peter Monteith, chief administratrative officer for the City of Chilliwack, has been named to the Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation.
That means he’ll be one of 12 appointees considering the new policies being hammered out for legalization and regulation in B.C.
“The main purpose of the committee is focusing on how municipalities will deal with the sales of marijuana in their communities,” Monteith told The Progress. “One of Chilliwack’s main concerns in terms of sales is ensuring we have the tools to regulate the location of marijuana stores, just as we have ways to regulate liquor stores.”
Monteith has 30 years experience in municipal planning and development to contribute to the new committee.
Downloading of costs to municipalities is always an irritant, and it’s something the municipal reps will be looking at.
“If there is a financial burden placed on municipalities for regulating sales, we want to have a way to raise money to cover that so it doesn’t become an extra burden to taxpayers,” said Monteith.
In terms of production on agricultural land, council has made clear there are issues around odour, minimum building setbacks and the potential size of the buildings.
“The committee will not be looking at production, so they likely won’t be focused on agricultural land issues concerning marijuana growth,” Monteith said.
What’s is important for Chilliwack, according to Mayor Sharon Gaetz, is that potential added costs are not downloaded to local governments.
“We’re not sure yet if we can share in the revenue, but we’ll be sharing the costs unless something is in the policies specifically,” Gaetz said.
Added costs could come from extra policing, and enforcement efforts.
Odour is the topic city hall hears most about from citizens living downwind of large pot growing operations, said Mayor Gaetz.
“Air quality, dust and pollution are concerns,” she said.
Question marks remain about indoor growing, licensing and zoning rules.
“There has been no indication as to who will be monitoring. We’ve seen the damage that can be done to housing with mold and water.”
The permitted use of farm land for pot production has raised flags for council because of the potential for a “gold rush” mentality.
“People are buying up farmland and speculating so they can grow marijuana,” said Gaetz.
“We have preserved our farmland for cultivation of fruit and vegetables and horticulture, and will continue to so for the next generation, so this is a concern.”
Mayor Gaetz said the timeline is short before legalization, so she’s glad that cities will get to work with the province on this, through the work of the joint committee.
“It goes without saying that local government will be on the frontline and instrumental in the delivery of new policies and laws associated with the legalization of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said.
The Solicitor General for B.C. said they “welcome and value” UBCM’s input as they build a regulatory framework for non-medical marijuana “focused on protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe.”
Farnworth announced the creation of the Joint Provincial-Local Government Committee on Cannabis Regulation last month at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention. The purpose of it is to provide a forum for communication and consultation so that provincial reps consider local government input during the development of the regulatory framework for legalized pot.
UBCM has appointed 12 people to the committee, drawn from elected officials, staff specializing in planning, building inspection, bylaw enforcement or public safety, and senior staff. Provincial reps were selected by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. The first meeting was on Oct. 20.
“There are a lot of details to be considered in a short period of time,” said Wendy Booth, president, Union of B.C. Municipalities. “We want to ensure that the resulting policies are practical and workable for communities in British Columbia, and leave room for local decision-making.”