Alberta municipalities want more time for marijuana reform

Alberta municipalities want more time for marijuana reform

As marijuana legalization looms, municipal governments are scrambling to develop policy to support the federal regulation of the drug.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), which says it represent 85 per cent of Albertans in various cities, towns and villages, is one of the organizations that needs more time than the current July 2018 deadline.

Lisa Holmes, the president of the AUMA and the mayor of Morinville, said Thursday she's concerned municipalities won't have enough time to prepare themselves for cannabis legalization.

"Their [the federal government's] timelines are just too fast," Holmes said. "It will take longer than a year. There's no question."

Holmes said like other forms of government, they knew legalization was coming. But many of the policy decisions need to be made by the province — and she thinks there may not be enough time to adapt after the decisions are made.

"There are some questions we have about training [for RCMP officers] and when that's going to be offered," she said. Holmes said decisions need to be made on where marijuana will be sold, how to regulate other marijuana products like edibles and whether home growers will need a permit.

Rolling into 2019?

Holmes said she feels municipalities could be ready to handle legalization in 2019, at least six months later than the federal government's timeline.

She said Edmonton and Calgary have the staff and administrations to handle potential regulations in time, but other municipalities will struggle.

"This will be happening in our small towns and villages as well and they're going need the support from AUMA, and the province and the federal government to make those changes," she said.

"It's not that we don't want to be ready, it's that within government, things go slowly and we know that," she said. "Even if we put, you know, our pedal to the metal we still might not get all of this stuff that we need to get in place done."

But Holmes is optimistic the provincial and federal governments will push back the target after seeing that municipalities may struggle to catch up.

"If there's any risk at all to our local communities and the people that live in them, I would hope that people would take that stance of perhaps looking at delaying this a little bit," she said.

"We can work with whatever regulations are put into place — as long as we have the time to do it."