By Trevor Busch
With an appointed date for federal cannabis legalization fast approaching in mid-2018, Bow River MP Martin Shields has expressed strong reservations about the implications of the legislation.
“Marijuana is going to be a brutal, gong show nightmare,” said Shields, speaking with constituents at a roundtable discussion on Oct. 13 at the Taber Legion Hall. “There may be a lot of happy people out there, and there may be a lot of junk food gone from the stores (but) the marijuana piece is going to really cause a lot of challenges. The federal government realizes they can make billions out of the taxes on this one.”
And while various tax sharing scenarios are being hammered out in discussions between federal and provincial governments, Shields pointed out municipalities are not being afforded a voice at the table or a potential cut of future revenues.
“They’re arguing with the provinces as to how to share it, but guess who isn’t in that sharing of the revenue? Municipalities. Guess who has to enforce this thing? Guess who has to do all of the land use and all the rest of it? It’s the municipalities. And now with the federal and provincial governments arguing how they’re going to share the huge tax rollout of this thing — which is brutal, and could be billions we’re talking about Canada-wide.”
Responsibilities for dealing with many of the implications of the legislation, Bill C-45, are being unfairly downloaded onto municipalities without consideration of added costs, according to Shields.
“But for us in the communities, to enforce that? If you’re on a work site, how are you going to regulate it, how are you going to test for it? For employees, there’s a lot of people in this room who have large machinery, how do you deal with that? It’s going to be a challenge. Your enforcement, the police officers, the people on the roads — it’s going to be brutal. And talking about keeping it out of the hands of kids, why are they going to allow edibles? Gummy bears, lollipops, you name it — they put it in everything. That’s not keeping it out of the hands of kids. And under the current legislation, which we hope they change, kids between the age of 12 and 17 can have five grams legally. You can’t have a bottle of beer, but you can have marijuana. It doesn’t make sense if you’re planning to keep it out of the hands of kids.”
The obligations that will be placed in the hands of municipalities without potential compensation from tax revenue will be burdensome, added Shields.
“We don’t know how it’s going to be done in the province of Alberta, and we know the municipalities have been working hard against it, but also how are you going to deal with this in terms of the municipalities? That is a tough one for the municipalities, when they know the tax money is going to the province, not them.”