RMs discuss rules in legalized pot era

EDMONTON — In a pivotal scene from the movie The God-father, a meeting of mafia dons discusses how to implement the drug trade in an orderly fashion.

One of the dons is adamant that the trade must be kept away from children and schools.

Municipal rural councillors probably feel the same way when the federal government legalizes marijuana and new entrepreneurs approach local jurisdictions for permission to set up businesses.

Municipalities want to be prepared by developing land use bylaws to keep these operations in an appropriate location, said Al Kemmere, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

The federal government plans to legalize pot by 2018.

Municipalities and provincial governments need to see the rules before they can make plans, Kemmere said in a March 21 interview during the association’s spring meeting in Edmonton.

“We have got to find a way to help them have land use planning documents prepared,” he said.

“We need to have them in the right places.”

Land use bylaws should be ready to avoid conflicts similar to local eruptions over intensive livestock operations in the early 2000s. Projects were stonewalled, and the province eventually wrote the Agriculture Operations Practices Act, which sets out how and where these farms may be located.

Besides ensuring that they are located appropriately, grow operations should also pay taxes like any other business.

“The municipalities are going to be stuck with having some of them, so there needs to be a revenue stream,” he said.

“Change in the land use can help those municipalities.”

There is a medical grow op in Kemmere’s home municipality of Mountainview County north of Calgary. The owner wants to expand, and Kemmere expects more applications will come to councils, so they need to be prepared.

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley wants strict rules.

“While access will be legal, there will also be legal restrictions such as age at access as well as where retail and wholesale outlets can be located,” she told the convention.

All levels of government have to be involved to ensure retail and wholesale outlets are regulated and kept secure, she said.

Child proof packaging and clear labels on serving sizes and edible products must be developed.

Ganley was part of a group that traveled to Colorado, where marijuana was legalized several years ago. The state advised setting up a strong regulatory framework, data collection and tracking of successes and failures within the new business.

The federal government has promised a provincial-federal task force with input from public health, substance abuse experts, law enforcement and the different levels of government. They will develop regulations, develop a sales distribution system and calculate excise taxes.

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