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City prepares for legal marijuana

Legalized recreational marijuana expected to have impact on many city policies

City of Red Deer is planning for legalized recreational marijuana — although what to expect is unclear.

The federal government tabled two bills in April 2017 to legalize and regulate marijuana. Both pieces of legislation are expected to be enacted this summer.

The provincial government passed legislation last November to oversee marijuana and establish provincial offences for youth possession and public consumption among others. As well, impaired driving offences were updated to include marijuana.

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Earlier this month, the Government of Alberta announced it expects to issue 250 cannabis store licences in the first year of operation. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will begin accepting applications on March 6.

“The biggest question for the City of Red Deer I would say is the adequacy of the funding,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee.

The federal government has suggested 75 per cent of legal marijuana sales will go back to the province. How much municipalities would get of that has yet to be decided.

How the city responds to legalized marijuana from enforcement and administration to many other areas will depend on how much money the city gets, said Lee on Tuesday.

Legalization means revisiting almost every aspect of city operations from enforcement and zoning to staff policies and safety issues.

“We have so many land use bylaw initiatives that would have to be reviewed,” he said. As far as the workplace, the city will have to determine how to test for marijuana use and identify acceptable levels.

Mayor Tara Veer sees the city as having a number of responsibilities in light of the new federal and provincial legislation.

The city has already dealt with medical marijuana production through its bylaws, which were updated about a year ago. Medical marijuana production facilities are only allowed in industrial area.

Rules about where recreational marijuana can be sold were addressed by the province.

Under the recently released guidelines, licensed stores will be allowed to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and must be 100 metres from schools and health care facilities.

Employees will have to get background checks and take a workshop to learn things such as how marijuana affects your health.

Veer said the city still must look at the safety of the public and its own staff and ensure RCMP have the resources they need, such as testing equipment, to respond to various marijuana scenarios.

Council is committed to taking a look at marijuana retailing and what sort of local rules need to be applied.

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