British Columbia

B.C. municipalities want at least half the money province makes on pot sales

B.C. municipalities want 50 per cent — or more — of the money the province makes on legal cannabis sales in order to offset the increased costs they say they will face to regulate the industry.

Legal cannabis will lead to increased policing, social costs, city leaders say

The federal government has worked out a revenue-sharing agreement with provinces and territories when it comes to marijuana sales, but B.C. cities say they need a cut, too. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Some B.C. municipalities want 50 per cent — or more — of the money the province makes on legal cannabis sales in order to offset the increased costs they say they will face to regulate the industry.

The federal government has agreed to give 75 cents of every tax dollar collected to provinces and territories, but so far municipalities have not been cut into the deal.

That doesn't sit well with West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, who has led a letter-writing campaign to the province asking for about half of the provincial revenue, or 37 per cent of total tax revenue from cannabis.

"There are considerable costs" with marijuana legalization, Findlater said. He said West Kelowna expects to hire additional bylaw staff in order to deal with the new industry. 

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said the province needs to provide municipalities with a way to cover the costs of enforcing new rules around legal marijuana sales. (CBC)

So far, Findlater said he's received support from about 40 other communities and knows others are taking their own approach.

In Fort St. John, city council has suggested 50 per cent may not be enough to cover the additional costs marijuana sales will impose on the community. Council has instructed staff to investigate the issue.

Coun. Larry Evans noted there may also be the need to hire more RCMP and enforcement officers.

"We can't just say 50 per cent and lock that in without any consultation at all, because it may be more than 50 per cent it's going to cost us." 

Edmonton, Regina estimate cannabis costs will be in the millions

In Alberta, Edmonton has estimated it will spend up to $11 million extra a year for bylaw enforcement and RCMP staff once cannabis is legal, while Regina has estimated an additional $1 million or more in policing costs.

The B.C. government is still working out the details of how cannabis sales will be managed, although it has announced they will take place in a standalone network of public retail stores, separate from liquor.

Local governments will also have the power to decide where or if the retail outlets are allowed to be located in their communities. 

Mixed attitudes across the province

Some B.C. municipalities are embracing the new industry, including Williams Lake, which has announced plans to become the "cannabis capital" of the province. 

Others, such as Taylor and Richmond, have voted to not allow any marijuana sales in the community.

Findlater said he hasn't had a response from the province on his revenue-sharing proposal, but said with legalization scheduled for July, he hopes a decision is made soon.

"We've had bits and pieces... but they're going to have to come out with this pretty quick," he said.


With files from Josh Pagé and CBC Radio West

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in unceded Lheidli T'enneh territory in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca. You can also send encrypted messages using Signal to 250.552.2058.

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