News / Calgary

'This is a very big deal:' Enforcing legalized weed would cost Calgary millions

Among the many worries on the marijuana file, the City of Calgary is trying to figure out where they will come up with more than $10 million every year to regulate weed

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city costs for marijuana legalization could surpass $10 million.

Elizabeth Cameron / for Metro Calgary

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city costs for marijuana legalization could surpass $10 million.

While the city's dealing big bucks to help follow the rules on dope, the province and Feds still haven't indicated if they will puff-puff-pass on the profits. 

On Thursday, councillors again stressed the need to wiggle in on any revenues coming from the federal move to legalize marijuana. So far there's no provincial or federal cash promised to the City of Calgary for enforcing the rollout of legalized weed and the city could be dishing out between $9 million and $12 million to regulate the substance every year.  

"This is a very big deal, we've not padded this number, we've gone through and found where the costs will be," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

"We anticipate north of $10 million a year, or if you prefer, about a one per cent increase to the property tax ... we need a share of the excise tax on cannabis."

He said the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is pitching a revenue share of equal thirds for the province, and another third for the feds. For Calgary, this amount wouldn't be a money-maker, it would simply go toward making up the city's incurred costs.

The costs will come from zoning, building inspections, policing costs and city enforcement costs – and the calculation done by the city doesn't include a one-time startup cost incurred when pot is made legal in 2018.

In the discussions, the issue isn't whether the province will hand municipalities like Calgary the cash, it's a matter of convincing the federal government to be clear on what the plan is.

"They've shown in the last few days they're willing to be flexible on this," said Nenshi. "Ideally, it would be a situation where some of that federal tax money flows directly to the municipality and doesn't have to stop off at the province on the way."

The government had proposed giving provincial and territorial governments half of the estimated $1 billion annual excise tax take once pot becomes legal next July.

Recently, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his officials have signalled a willingness to increase that share when they sit down next week with their provincial and territorial counterparts.

Currently, the city's doing several rounds of public consultation, online through the city's Engage portal and in a statistically valid phone survey. They have had nearly 12,000 responses so far and the online consultations will end December 10.

In April, 2018, any proposed bylaw changes will go to a public hearing in council so that businesses can be prepped and open by the July 2018 legalization date. 

- with files from the Canadian Press

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