Preparing for legalization

Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards -- Herald file photo.

The federal government is one year away from legalizing marijuana, but city council is already taking steps to prepare for the change.

On Tuesday, Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards brought forward a motion asking for city administrators to submit a report the potential implications of the new law. The report will cover issues like business licenses, grow-ops, operating hours and business locations.

Edwards says he’s already fielding calls from residents inquiring about business licenses for when marijuana becomes legal, and he wants the city to be prepared when the day comes.

“This is an unknown area, so this is why I’m asking administration to start diving into it a little bit,” he explained during an interview on Wednesday. “There are already cities researching. I know that cities are consulting back and forth, and P.A. needs to be involved in those consultations, if they’re not already.”

Edwards said he’s particularly concerned about how many marijuana vendors will be allowed to operate in the city, as well as where they’ll be located. He also has concerns about grow-ops, which he wants the city to bar completely.

“Grow-ops, to me, are just going to open it up and it’s not going to be easily controlled,” he said. “The police are going to have difficulty with that, and that’s my major concern.”

Although home-based grow-ops will be difficult to police, Edwards said he has no issues with licensed sellers growing their own stock, which he thinks will lead to a decrease in marijuana with crystal meth, fentanyl or other drugs laced into it.

Ideally, he’s hoping council can use the report to develop core laws necessary for business owners to sell their product.

However, residents shouldn’t expect administration to produce such a report any time soon.

The city is limited in what changes they can make until further legislation comes down the line from the provincial and federal governments.

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski was one of three councillors who spoke in favour of Edwards’ motion on Tuesday. He said municipalities should start prying as much information out of the federal and provincial governments as they can.

“When it comes to bylaws and zoning, that conversation needs to start and needs to continue,” he said. “We need to push the feds as to what their plans are.”

Some Canadian cities are already selling business licenses to distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes. In Vancouver, for example, you can legally sell Marijuana in a for-profit store, provided you buy a $30,000 license from the city.

Mayor Greg Dionne said some cities are still considering whether to allow the sale of marijuana inside municipal limits, but it’s too early to speculate on whether that will happen in Prince Albert.

The federal government is expected to legalize the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana by July 1, 2018.

@kerr_jas •

[Correction: a previous version of this article stated that Coun. Blake Edwards was against all forms of grow-ops. He is against grow-ops in private homes, but not for grow-ops run by licensed sellers.]