Motion to fight pot legalization voted down at Alberta municipalities meeting

An attempt by the town of Taber to ask Ottawa to repeal cannabis legislation was defeated at a municipal conference in Calgary Wednesday.

Town of Taber wanted AUMA to lobby Ottawa to ditch proposed Cannabis Act

A motion from the town of Taber, asking the provincial government to petition their federal counterparts to delay legalization of marijuana was defeated at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. (Photo courtesy of Allan Ziolkowski)

An effort by the town of Taber to have Alberta fight against the federal plan to legalize cannabis went up in smoke on Wednesday.

The town's council put forward the resolution Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association in Calgary, which runs until Friday.

It wanted AUMA members to support having the organization lobby the federal government to repeal the Cannabis Act and to request the provincial government work with the AUMA on that effort. 

Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop spoke to the gathering, saying cannabis is a dangerous drug and that there are many consequences to legalization.

"Marijuana use in the high-risk group of 12 to 25 years of age is directly related to brain development issues and irreversible brain damage," said Prokop.

He's also concerned about the potential rise in drug-impaired driving. 

The town of Vauxhall seconded the motion.

But Vaxhall Mayor Margaret Plumtree said her support for Taber's motion isn't about opposing legalization. It's about the timing.

The federal government has introduced legislation to legalize weed by July 2018.

Plumtree said more preparation time is needed.

"We need to keep our employees and our communities safe. We're just not ready yet," she said.

Motion had limited support

There was pushback to the motion.

Ryan Maguhn, a councillor with the town of Hinton, said rather than fight the federal legislation, Alberta communities should do what they can to customize local bylaws to their own liking.

He also pointed out that alcohol is a much bigger social concern than marijuana.

Maguhn says data from Statistics Canada shows 5.5 million people drink booze in Canada as opposed to 3.4 million who say they use marijuana.

Further, he said there are many more heavy drinkers in Canada than people who are daily users of marijuana.

"Those numbers tell you where the real problem is. I don't hear anybody in here trying to pass a resolution trying to ban alcohol," said Maguhn as applause rippled across the room.

"Let's focus on dealing with the legislation that's coming down the pipeline in a productive and cooperative manner with the federal government and not worry about making political statements."

When it came to a vote, the Taber resolution was defeated 76 per cent to 24 per cent.

AUMA wants to merge with other group

Also at the AUMA meeting, members voted overwhelmingly to look in to merging with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC). 

The incoming president of the AUMA, Barry Morishita, said he's glad members supported the idea.

"If we speak as one municipal voice, I think we're far more likely to achieve some of those things that we need to make our communities successful," he said.

Morishita, who is also the mayor of Brooks, added that a similar motion was defeated at a recent AAMDC meeting. It garnered only about 30 per cent support.

However, he plans to reach out to AAMDC members to talk about a merger. "I think we just have work to do. They're our neighbours."

Premier Rachel Notley is scheduled to speak at the AUMA conference on Thursday.