As province-led consultations are underway across most of the country, an advocacy group representing 2000 different Canadian municipalities is encouraging local governments to get to work with the release of its Cannabis Legalization Primer.
While cities like Vancouver and Victoria have already set up licensing programs and bylaws to accommodate cannabis-related businesses, the vast majority of municipalities in British Columbia have avoided creating similar frameworks in anticipation of the Liberal government’s plans for legalization.
As such, the FCM advises municipalities to ‘begin their internal process immediately’ so that all bylaws are in place by July 1, 2018, the date Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said cannabis will be legal.
While federal and provincial governments will each have their own very different sets of responsibilities, it will be up to municipalities to determine zoning, business licensing, building code, some elements of workplace safety, and the enforcement of public consumption and impaired driving regulations. Determining the areas of shared responsibility will be a bit more challenging.
With just 10 months to go, the advocacy group suggests that municipalities undertake a long list of action items in order to lay the groundwork for cannabis-related bylaws.
In addition to assembling a working group on cannabis legalization, municipal leaders need to engage with provinces or territories on the subject of jurisdictional responsibility. Seeking legal advice might also be necessary given the multi-jurisdictional nature of the incoming legislation.
In towns and cities where cannabis-related businesses like dispensaries operate despite an absence of municipal regulations, like North Vancouver, Abbotsford, and Maple Ridge, municipal staff should engage with business operators and their neighbours, while also holding some form of more broad public consultation. This could be executed with a public hearing, online surveys, public meetings, and the use of social media.
Legalization may or may not affect existing bylaws and other municipal programs. Areas of overlap that municipalities should consider include land use planning and zoning, public consumption, business licensing, human resources policies, enforcement and policing, public education, and public health.
Pointing out the urgency of the timeline, the FCM encourages municipalities to do what they can before provincial or territorial regulations are in place.