Regina city councillors are set to allow six marijuana retailers into the city when pot becomes legal this summer.
That's the maximum number allowed by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority for the province's capital city.
The city council's executive committee approved a report from city administration Wednesday that lays out recommendations to prepare the city for marijuana legalization. One of those recommendations was that Regina accept the six licences.
But city council isn't exactly welcoming legal marijuana with open arms. A few councillors said they were worried about keeping marijuana away from children and one, Bob Hawkins, said he was morally opposed to marijuana.
Still, Mayor Michael Fougere said it's important for Regina to tackle the issue now.
"This is an artificial rush by the federal government — there's no need for them to rush, there's no logical reason to rush — but they're doing that and they're forcing us and the province to act," he said. "So we have to act. In the interest of public safety, we have to have our programs in place."
'If we wait, we're not ready to move forward'
With many regulatory questions still up in the air, like how much money the city will make from legal marijuana, this report lays out the city's needs in broad strokes. Another, more detailed report is expected to go before council once there's more information from the provincial government, Fougere said.
"The federal government has not given any indication; the provincial government certainly hasn't. If we wait, we're not ready to move forward," Fougere said. "Is it a perfect world? It's not. In a perfect world you would have the cost determined, the policy in place and then you approve it."
The report lays out four other recommendations, including that:
- Administration develop regulations on zoning, business licences and community standards.
- City council pass a law banning smoking marijuana in indoor public places.
- Fougere formally ask the province to reimburse the city for all costs related to marijuana.
It also lays out how legal marijuana will affect the police and fire departments as well as workers at City Hall.
Cost of marijuana for city a 'moving target'
The report states the police department expects legal marijuana to cost between $1.2 million and $1.8 million per year.
On Wednesday, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray explained those figures represent between 1.6 per cent and 2.2 per cent of the police force's operating budget, which is in line with what police in York, Ont., and Edmonton expect to spend enforcing the rules when marijuana becomes legal.
"It's a moving target for us," Bray said. "The costs of this are really tough to nail down."
Purchasing roadside testing equipment and training officers in recognizing high drivers is anticipated to be the most expensive part, Bray said. The testing machines are expected to cost at least $25,000 each and training is expected to cost at least $15,000 per year.
Before Wednesday's meeting, Coun. Andrew Stevens expressed concerns about the methodology behind the numbers. He questioned Bray about those numbers Wednesday and said he left the meeting satisfied with how the police reached their estimates.
Under a deal reached last year, 75 cents of every tax dollar from marijuana will go to the provinces, while the rest will go to the federal government.
It's not clear how that money will flow to municipalities, but the report states Regina wants a third to cover the costs of legal marijuana.
The report will now go before the full Regina city council on Feb. 26.
Bray also said that right now marijuana-related offences take up an insignificant portion of police resources.
Last year, 106 calls to police involved a simple possession offence. Police laid charges in just fewer than half of those cases, and all involved something other than marijuana.
But he said he's concerned about the 19 marijuana dispensaries that operate in Regina. He alleged one recently sold gummy bears laced with marijuana to an 11-year-old.
Over the last month, Regina police have been cracking down on marijuana dispensaries in the city. They issued a warning in the media and have been mailing letters to dispensary owners warning them they could be charged for marijuana trafficking.