With the days and weeks ticking away until Ottawa finally legalizes recreational pot, officials at the City of Duncan are waiting for more direction as to how to proceed.
The city recently received correspondence from Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, stating he was looking for input from the city and all other B.C. municipalities on marijuana and legalization issues.
“This has become a real challenge that’s been heard all across Canada,” said Duncan Mayor Phil Kent.
“We were hoping that some form of framework would have been presented to us from the province at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting that was held recently, but all we really got was a blank piece of paper.”
While many aspects of marijuana regulation will be the responsibility of Ottawa when legalization occurs, which is expected in July, provinces will be responsible for others.
They include how recreational marijuana is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions, determining legal ages to consume pot and other legalities.
The City of Duncan’s policies currently see marijuana as illegal and the municipality won’t even consider distributing business licences for pot dispensaries until the new laws are in place and clarified.
In his letter, Farnworth said marijuana legalization presents complex policy challenges for the province.
“We expect that, as in other jurisdictions that have legalized, it will take several years to develop, establish and refine an effective non-medical cannabis regime that, over time, eliminates the illegal market,” the letter said.
“The information gathered through this engagement will inform the province’s policy decisions.”
Kent said council couldn’t reach a consensus of how it would respond to the letter from Farnworth at last week’s committee of the whole meeting when the letter was tabled.
“We need more time and information from the province and UCBM before we can have a proper discussion and decide how to respond to the minister’s letter,” he said.
“There’s a lot of details to consider and we’re hoping that the province will provide us with some sort of road map on where the government’s thinking is on this issue sometime soon.”
Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said Farnworth’s letter has yet to be tabled in either jurisdiction.
“But I expect my concerns will echo some of Mayor Kent’s,” he said.
“Legalizing marijuana has a lot of implications for local governments, including policing. The new regulations will have to be enforced and we just don’t know the magnitude of that in regards to our police at this time.”