Questions remain on impact of legal pot — Red Deer city councillor

Questions remain on what the consequences, intended or unintended, will be when the federal government legalizes marijuana.

The federal government announced late last week, new laws that legalize recreational marijuana for people aged 18 and older.

Included in the legalization legislation, are strict guidelines for its use which include punishments for underage and driving while impaired by pot.

Red Deer will have some tools at its disposal to impact the forthcoming change in marijuana laws. The city will be able to structure its land use bylaw around as well as fire and building codes.

However, concern remains about the costs municipalities will face with legalization. Buck Buchanan, Red Deer city councillor and board of directors member, pointed to the potential cost to police forces.

A former RCMP member, Buchanan invoked an example of under-aged tobacco smoking. The law enabled officers to give tickets to anyone under 18 smoking cigarettes. However, to enforce the $100 ticket police would have to send the cigarette to get tested in a lab and the offender’s parents would have to be subpoenaed to provide evidence of the accused’s name.

He wonders what kinds of policing costs could be offloaded on municipalities enforcing laws around underage marijuana consumption.

“It’s not so much the legalization as it is the hurry-up to get it in place,” said Buchanan. “It’s the unknowns.”

Among the unknowns Buchanan pointed to were enforcement around impaired driving. No specific testing method was endorsed by the federal government during the announcement of the legalization plans. A saliva test would be authorized under the proposed law. Testing of saliva devices by Canadian police forces began in April 2016.

“It’s the trickle down effect that happens after July 4, 2018,” said Buchanan. “We just don’t know. We’re trying to figure it out, as is the province as is everybody. What does it mean?”

A release from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association calls for the federal government to take a measure pace to allow provincial and municipal governments to create an appropriate framework for their province.

“In particular, we need to ensure that the federal legislation and associated programs provide sufficient authority for municipalities to influence the sale and consumption of marijuana in their communities”, said Lisa Holmes, AUMA president.

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