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Saskatoon, Regina mayors want marijuana tax revenue to cover municipal costs tied to legalization

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says the extra money generated from legalized pot should be spent helping cities with the costs associated with policing and regulating the industry.

Premier Brad Wall says he 'wouldn't object to an extension' of pot legalization date

What exactly legalized pot in Saskatchewan will look like is still up in the air and likely won't be known until closer to the July 1, 2018, legalization deadline. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

The mayors of both Saskatoon and Regina say the extra money generated from legalized pot should be spent helping cities with the costs associated with policing and regulating the industry.

What exactly legalized pot in Saskatchewan will look like is still up in the air and likely won't be known until closer to the July 1, 2018, legalization deadline. 

But Saskatoon's Clarlie Clark says police will likely have to spend more money than ever on things like impaired driving technologies and enforcement of new laws.

"If there is going to be revenues generated, some of those revenues should be made available to local municipalities and police services to make sure the implementation is done well and effectively," Clark said. 

'I'm not looking for a cash grab out of this,' says Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark. (CBC)

Regina's Michael Fougere believes zoning and licensing costs will also rise and said municipalities should be given the resources to cover the extra expenses.

Their comments come after Toronto Mayor John Tory floated the idea of a "special levy" or tax on pot to help cities cope with the extra cost managing legalized weed.

Tory didn't say how much a potential levy to offset those costs should be.

Clark said whether it's direct tax tied to marijuana sales or some form of revenue sharing from the province, cities are on the front lines and will need more money to make sure legalization is done right. 

"I'm not looking for a cash grab out of this … the reality is there will be costs to cities to manage the legalization of marijuana, so it's only fair," Clark said. 

"Budgets are already stretched. Police budgets are the most stretched. We are having to make decisions between hiring officers are getting equipment to monitor impairment and marijuana. We need the support from the provincial and federal governments to implement this effectively."

Fougere agreed, saying the exact mechanism for how cities could receive this new pot money is up for debate.

Wall open to legalization extension 

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his province has a lot of work to do before recreational marijuana is legalized. And, while his government is prepping for the July 2018 deadline, he's not opposed to pushing legalization back.

"We wouldn't object to an extension. I don't know about a year but we wouldn't object to an extension. There is a lot of moving parts here," Wall told reporters in Edmonton at the annual premiers meeting.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister argued Tuesday there's not enough time for provinces and territories to get regulations, road safety provisions and public awareness in place to meet the federal government's target of July 2018 for legal pot.

Pallister said rushing to legalize pot could not only endanger lives, it could also jeopardize business relations with the U.S., where many states have strict rules around marijuana.

From left, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, Robert Bertrand, National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, take part in the meeting with National Indigenous Leaders during the premiers meeting in Edmonton Monday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Wall, the only other conservative premier at this week's meeting, said he, too, has concerns about things like labelling, road safety and public health. 

"Labelling, public health, who's selling it, what's the split, road safety — there is a great deal of issues here," Wall said.

The federal government has said it's up to the provinces to set age limits on pot consumption and to decide exactly how and where legal pot will be sold.

Other premiers acknowledge meeting target will be a 'challenge'

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said her province is working hard to meet the federal target, but conceded it would be a challenge. She did not rule out asking for an extension.

But New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said that once those tricky issues of production, sales and distribution are worked out, legalized cannabis could be an "economic opportunity" for the provinces.

Heading into Wednesday's session, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said extra time would help the provinces prepare, but he isn't holding out hope the federal government will bend on its timeline.


With files from Kathleen Harris