Cannabis Legalization Update

On April 13, 2017, the federal government tabled cannabis legalization and enforcement legislation (Bill C-45 and Bill C-46), with the intention of legalizing cannabis by July 2018. Since that time, UBCM has worked to engage its membership, the provincial government, and other key stakeholders, regarding a cannabis legalization framework and important issues and implications.

The legalization and regulation of cannabis has emerged as a major policy issue for UBCM and its membership, as local governments stand to face widespread impacts. The legislation tabled by Canada has provided greater clarity regarding federal and provincial frameworks that will be developed, and potential areas of responsibility for all orders of government. With the expectation that a ‘made in BC’ framework will be developed by July 2018, UBCM continues to take action on this file.

UBCM Survey

On March 29, 2017, with federal legislation looming and regulatory development to follow soon after, UBCM distributed a survey to its membership, seeking input on a number of issues related to the legalization and regulation of non-medical cannabis. These issues included revenue sharing, consultation, implementation, potential repercussions, and attitudes towards legalization, as well as issues related to medical cannabis.

One of the most cited concerns among the 57 respondents was the potential for a transfer of responsibilities to local governments without accompanying funding from other orders of government. When asked to indicate their three primary concerns regarding a legalized cannabis regime, 78.9% of respondents selected “downloading of duties onto local governments” as a concern. Many respondents were also concerned with the potential distribution of revenue, and the necessity for local governments to receive a share, especially if they were to assume new responsibilities. This is consistent with UBCM resolution 2016-A3, which requested that a portion of any future federal or provincial tax collected through cannabis sales and distribution be shared with local governments.

The lack of communication and consultation between federal and provincial orders of government and local governments was also apparent, with only 7.2% of respondents having been directly consulted by the federal government, federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, or the provincial government. Many respondents refrained or were unable to answer portions of the survey due to a lack of federal/provincial communication.

Provincial Meetings

UBCM has held preliminary meetings with the provincial government on two separate occasions. In May 2017, UBCM staff met with provincial staff to discuss the recently tabled federal legislation, its implications, and local government concerns with legalization. Owing to the outcome of the recent provincial election, the Province was unable to commence discussions with UBCM outside of indicating that a formal engagement plan was being researched. A subsequent meeting in July, following the formation of the provincial government, provided no further information. UBCM continues to seek information from the Province, as well as opportunities to express local government concerns and provide input into a BC legalized cannabis framework.

Current Policy and Proposed Resolution

At the 2016 UBCM Convention, the membership endorsed two resolutions directly related to the federal government’s initiative to legalize and regulate cannabis:

2016    A2    Marijuana Regulations

Requesting that the federal and provincial governments directly involve local government, through UBCM and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), in the process of establishing a regulatory approach to cannabis in Canada, while ensuring that all orders of government are granted adequate time to align and integrate regional and local regulations and practices with new federal laws.

2016    A3    Marijuana Sales and Distribution Tax Sharing for Local Governments

Calling on the federal government to request that a portion of any future federal or provincial tax collected through cannabis sales and distribution be shared with local governments, and that the concept of tax sharing with local governments be forwarded to the task force looking into the new system of cannabis sales and distribution, for consideration.

The Province, prior to the May 2017 provincial election, provided comments towards both resolutions. In response to 2016-A2, the provincial government outlined its engagement strategy, which included consultation with the federal government, and establishment of provincial committees (under the lead of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General). In response to 2016-A3, the Province would not commit to revenue sharing with local governments. The Ministry of Finance indicated that before considering a tax revenue transfer to local governments, the Province would first need to fund the regulatory framework and essential services impacted by cannabis (e.g. health care, education, public safety).

In addition to policy established at the 2016 Convention, the UBCM Executive has put forward the following resolution for consideration at the 2017 Convention:

SR1    Local Government Role in BC Framework for Cannabis UBCM Exec.

Whereas the federal government intends to legalize cannabis by July 2018, and to date the provincial government has conducted minimal consultation with local government regarding the development and implementation of a BC framework for cannabis;

And whereas within a BC framework for cannabis, it is likely that a substantial portion of the regulatory burden and associated costs—for example, in the areas of compliance and enforcement—will fall on local government:

Therefore be it resolved that the UBCM membership endorse the following principles to guide UBCM’s advocacy with the provincial government regarding local government’s role in a BC framework for cannabis:

  • Fulsome and meaningful provincial consultation with local governments;
  • Provision of adequate provincial funding to cover any responsibilities and increase in administrative burden of any provincial framework that requires local government participation;
  • Equitable sharing of tax revenues from cannabis between all orders of government; and
  • Respect for local choice, jurisdiction and authority, including but not limited to land use and zoning decisions.

Special Resolution 1 (SR1) addresses an emerging policy issue for British Columbia local governments; one that was only recently given some clarity through the tabling of federal legislation (Bill C-45 and Bill C-46). With this in mind, the UBCM Executive has proposed SR1 to provide broad organizational direction going forward. SR1 is consistent with past policy (2016-A2 and 2016-A3), the results of UBCM’s cannabis survey, and information obtained through participation in local government working groups. UBCM’s Community Safety Committee and Healthy Communities Committee have vetted the proposed resolution, which was endorsed (for consideration at the Convention) by UBCM’s Executive in July 2017.

UBCM Convention

UBCM is working to develop a Monday pre-conference session entitled, Legalized Cannabis in British Columbia. This half-day session seeks to explore the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada, and in particular British Columbia. UBCM has reached out to potential speakers from the federal government, Province of British Columbia, local government, and other organizations to discuss methods to address local government concerns, steps to develop a ‘made in BC’ approach, and other important aspects of a new framework.

Additionally, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has submitted a proposal to host a 90 minute workshop at the 2017 Convention entitled, Provincial Regulation of Non-Medical Cannabis. The purpose of this workshop will be to engage local governments regarding the provincial regulatory framework, with a focus on areas of provincial responsibility that will require local government input.

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