Provincial government program to help pay for legalized cannabis costs expected to fall short in Blackfalds. Black Press file photo

Blackfalds predicts provincial funding help will not cover all legalized marijuana costs

Province’s Municipal Cannabis Transition Program a good first step, says Blackfalds mayor

Provincial government funding will fall short of what Blackfalds predicts its extra costs will be from legalized marijuana.

The province’s Municipal Cannabis Transition Program is designed to help municipalities cover the additional enforcement, legal, staffing, education and administration costs anticipated.

Blackfalds estimated legalized marijuana could tally $82,464 over two years. However, under the government program the town would be eligible for only $50,446.

Blackfalds intends to track all of its legalized marijuana costs, which will be passed on to the government.

A copy will also be sent to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), which represents municipalities and lobbies on their behalf. The AUMA wants to gather information to get a better sense of the financial implications of legalized marijuana.

Last October, Finance Minister Joe Ceci announced the government will provide $11.2 million in grants over two years to help municipalities with more than 5,000 residents cover costs associated with legal pot.

Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole said the province is taking the right step by setting up the transition program.

“We’re disappointed it didn’t cover the entire amount,” he said.

“It would have been nice if all of it was covered, but the fact that some of it is covered is a good first step.”

Poole said Blackfalds will be sending its cannabis-related financial information to the AUMA.

“The AUMA has been very proactive in talking with the provincial government and finding ways to ensure that the money (the province) is receiving from the federal government is being transferred down to municipalities in an appropriate way.”

Poole said, like municipalities, the Alberta government has also had cannabis costs downloaded on to them — in its case from the federal government.

How much legalized marijuana will cost municipalities — especially in enforcement — is unclear. Solid numbers won’t be known for at least a year, said the mayor.

A two-year deal the provinces signed with the federal government in 2017 gives provinces 75 per cent of the tax collected on cannabis sales.

Because of the lag in gathering and distributing taxes, the Alberta government expects to lose $90 million over the first two years of legalization.

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