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Don't stick us with pot tab: Cities

Federation of Canadian Municipalities worried about regulatory cost, presents at House hearings Friday.

Canada's cities are worried about the cost of marijuana legalization.

Joe Mahoney / The Canadian Press

Canada's cities are worried about the cost of marijuana legalization.

Canada’s cites don’t want Ottawa or the provinces to pass the costs of dealing with marijuana legalization onto them.

Winnipeg councillor and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Jenny Gerbasi said municipalities are worried about the cost to get ready for the new regime.

“Our cites and communities are where cannabis will actually be used and sold and we have to adapt bylaws, programs, policies,” she said.

The FCM will present to the House of Commons Committee studying the marijuana legalization bill on Friday. Dozens of groups have been presenting to the committee this week, including dispensary owners, medical users, police agencies and public health departments.

Gerbasi said municipalities know they could have to deal with licensing and zoning requirements as well as other possible challenges and they want to be included in the plans.

“We do know that we as the local level of government needs to be at the table as Ottawa and the provinces move forward on this.”

She said the federation is trying to help individual municipalities prepare, but right now they just don’t have enough information.

“We have more questions than answers.”

She said municipalities don’t know what the cost of this will be for them either with so many unknowns, but they don’t want those costs to be simply passed along.

“We need to know that there won’t be unsustainable new burdens on local governments,” she said. “If there are costs there should also be revenue coming to address them.”

Police agencies speaking at the House of Commons committee this week called on the government to delay their proposed implementation from July next year, arguing they won’t be ready in time.

The government has rejected that proposal.

Gerbasi didn’t call for a delay, but she said it’s essential the government include municipalities if they are to have a smooth roll out of legalization.

“We’re working with the situation, it’s happening in and we’re prepared to get to work.”

The federal government’s proposed legislation has left it up to provincial government to decide how marijuana is sold, but set July 2018 as the target for legalization.

Ontario announced last week it intends to sell it through 150 government-run stores.

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