City wants slice of future pot tax windfall

The City of Duncan is looking for its fair share of taxes from marijuana dispensaries when they are finally legalized

  • Feb. 19, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Robert Barron Citizen

The City of Duncan is looking for its fair share of taxes from marijuana dispensaries when they are finally legalized, even though the city’s bylaws currently prohibit such businesses.

City council passed a motion at Monday’s meeting asking that the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities lobby the federal government to request that a portion of any future federal and provincial tax collected through marijuana sales and distribution be shared with local governments.

The resolution will be presented at the AVICC’s conference, scheduled for April 9, and also forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“The regulation and enforcement for medicinal marijuana retail dispensaries will likely fall to the local governments once the law changes, thus creating additional burdens on local government resources,” according the motion.

One of the campaign promises Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in November’s federal election was to legalize marijuana, but it’s unknown at this time just how long it will take to finally change the laws.

The city decided in January to strengthen its policies on the dispensaries until the federal laws become clear.

After receiving a number requests to establish dispensaries in Duncan, the city decided to place on its business applications that all business licences would only be considered if they follow all the laws of the land; municipal, provincial and federal.

Karen Robertson, Duncan’s director of corporate affairs, said the city is not opposed to the establishment of marijuana dispensaries within its boundaries.

But she said Duncan “needs a thoughtful approach” to the issue until the federal laws change.

As for Monday’s motion on the sharing of future taxes on the dispensaries once they are legal, Robertson said the intent is to “get ahead of the curve” on the issue before any new laws on their operations are introduced by the federal government.

Coun. Sharon Jackson said she believes that with so many Canadians in favour of changing the nation’s pot laws, the laws could change more quickly than many think. But she said council has yet to have discussions around where the dispensaries should be placed in the city, and how many should be allowed.

“If Colorado is any indication, taxes from these operations in Canada could be in the tens of millions of dollars,” Jackson said.

“We want a share in those tax revenues, like we currently do with the gas taxes. It could be a mammoth tax windfall for municipalities with broken-down infrastructure.”