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Town needs to tread lightly with cannabis

Posted on August 1, 2018 by Taber Times

It has become very obvious that the majority of the power brokers in the Town of Taber are not the biggest fan of Justin Trudeau’s actions to have marijuana legalized for non-medical consumption by the fall of 2018.

Town council has fought tooth and nail against the upcoming legalization since it was first announced, having put forth a resolution at an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting to have the organization lobby the federal government to repeal the Cannabis Act and to request the provincial government work with the AUMA on that effort. The resolution went up in smoke by a 3-1 ratio last November.

Fast forward to today and the town still seems to be kicking and screaming to the inevitable end — recreational marijuana is going to be legalized in this country at some time in 2018. That was made abundantly clear when the Senate passed Bill C-45 to legalize marijuana by a 52-29 vote back in June.

The Senate had proposed 46 amendments to the Cannabis Act. The Liberal government rejected 13 of those proposed changes at the time — including one provision that would have affirmed the provinces’ right to ban home cultivation of marijuana.

That seems to be a point of contention for Taber town council who sought legal opinion on home growing and also continues to drag its feet on cannabis land-use amendments, as its bylaw has been sent back to the drawing board as the legalization date gets closer and closer.

One has to look no further than the controversial Community Standards Bylaw that was passed back in 2015 to find out what kind of backlash can occur when you try to delve into someone’s rights given to them federally.

The primary concern where the bylaw gained international notoriety was the provision of being able to disperse groups of three or more on the ‘belief’ the assembly will disturb the peace, violated Charter rights.

There are a guaranteed number of marijuana plants people will be allowed to grow at home as long as they meet certain parametres according to the federal legislation. Any attempt by the town to circumvent that through a provision in a restrictive land-use bylaw assuredly will face a costly legal challenge.

What is a bit more of a head scratcher are some vocal members on council being worried about the onset of cannabis retail facilities, yet if the concern is public safety, there is already what seems to be a liquor store on every street corner.

Statistics Canada shows 5.5 million people drink alcohol in Canada as opposed to 3.4 million who say they use marijuana.

Business licences are being set at a higher cost than other businesses in anticipation of the increased cost to policing. Fair enough, but given the boatload of offences the Taber police deal with that are alcohol related (.08, assaults, domestics) that dominate a docket, if that same logic was applied to increase business licences to establishments that serve alcohol, you would be getting protests that line up clear outside the council chambers’ doors.

The legalization of recreational marijuana is coming and rest assured, even the most optimistic person should not be saying there aren’t going to be bumps along the road.

But for a town badly needing an influx of new business to supplement its tax base with its rising municipal costs, drafting overly restrictive bylaws surrounding a business that sells a legal product seems counter intuitive to a free-market system.

In the end, it is about responsible consumption of any legal product and workplace and public setting bylaws is where the restrictive oversight should be coming, not through business bylaws.

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