Cities deserve a voice in marijuana legalization process, Vancouver councillor says

Councillor Kerry Jang is frustrated because he says municipalities have been excluded from the federal marijuana legalization process.

'[The federal government has] rebuffed us at every opportunity,' says Councillor Kerry Jang

The federal government has committed to legalizing marijuana by the summer of 2018. (CBC News)

If everything goes according to the federal government's plan, marijuana will be legalized in Canada by next summer — but some B.C. municipalities say they're still in the dark about what that scheme will mean for them.

Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang, who is also a executive with the Union of B.C. Municipalities and head of Vancouver's marijuana file, says there hasn't been enough consultation with cities on marijuana legalization.

"We've been clamouring for a long time — over a year — and we've been ignored," he said. "I've heard nothing from the feds."

A wealth of experience

Canada's provincial justice ministers are gathering in Vancouver today to meet with Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to discuss the marijuana file among other issues.

But Jang said the federal government has largely ignored his request for a seat at the table.

"We've said, look, we have a lot of experience," he said. "We don't have to [reject suggestions] but include us so we can let you know our experience in dealing with this, but they've rebuffed us at every opportunity."

Vancouver was the first Canadian city to manage marijuana through a business licensing scheme. The city issued its first-ever business licence to a medical marijuana dispensary in May 2016. A similar scheme was later adopted by Victoria.

The legalization of marijuana comes with many concerns for municipalities, he said. There are concerns around how marijuana will be sold, how it will be grown, how zoning would work, whether there will be increased security requirements, and what resources will be available for local police officers.

And there's the delicate question of funding.

Last year, the UBCM adopted a resolution to ask the federal government for a share of taxes collected on marijuana. But since that resolution, Jang said he has heard nothing from the federal government.

"It's been very frustrating," he said. "In order to make marjiuana work in this country, it's going to take all three levels of government working together."

Now Jang says the Union of British Columbia municipalities (UBCM) will present a special resolution at its annual meeting set for the end of September asking for representation.

With files from The Early Edition


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