Local governments facing new marijuana regulation and enforcement cost are seeking up to half of the provincial revenues from recreational sales that are set to begin in October.
Resolutions to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention offer multiple suggestions to the B.C. government, an issue likely to dominate the annual gathering of local and provincial politicians in Whistler Sept. 10-14.
Communities face costs “including but not limited to policing, licensing, enforcement, zoning and zoning enforcement, by-laws and by-law enforcement and possible health issues,” and should get half of the province’s revenue, says a resolution from the village of Tahsis.
Nelson and Pemberton resolutions also call for a 50-50 split in revenue, which the province estimated in its February budget at $50 million for the balance of 2018-19 and $75 million for full years following that.
Provinces negotiated a 75 per cent share of revenues with Ottawa in May, with similar arguments about the burden of policing and regulating cannabis stores. The federal government is placing an excise tax of $1 a gram on all recreational sales.
B.C. has decided to allow private stores, many already operating, plus a chain of government retail outlets to start opening by Oct. 17 and a monopoly on wholesale supply.
The B.C. government announced earlier this month that the Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale markup on cannabis will be 15 per cent, compared to 124 per cent for a bottle of hard liquor. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has emphasized that the retail price of legal marijuana must be kept low, or illegal producers will hold on to some of the market.
Other resolutions dealing with legalizing marijuana include:
• Delta council is calling for a provincial ban or restrictions on growing cannabis on agricultural land. Its resolution notes that it can be grown in greenhouses on existing industrial land, and only 1.1 per cent of B.C.’s land area is suitable for growing food.
• The City of Nelson has a resolution urging the province to allow leasing of Crown land to grow cannabis, also to preserve farmland for food crops.
• Langley Township’s resolution calls on the federal government to place similar restrictions on cannabis advertising as it has for tobacco sales.
• New Westminster council wants the province to harmonize smoking regulations applying to tobacco with smoking marijuana.