City of Surrey ponders its pot plan

Surrey mulls over ‘missteps’ from U.S. cities that have legalized marijuana

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner says the city has developed a “balanced, appropriate and evidence-based approach” in preparing for the expected passing of the Trudeau government’s Bill C45 Cannabis Act this coming July.

“Like all governments, the City of Surrey must determine the changes needed to ensure an effective response to cannabis legalization,” Hepner said. “Our report was prepared following a comprehensive review of best practices in jurisdictions of the United States with legal recreational cannabis markets. Council and I have directed staff to implement the necessary steps outlined in the framework over the coming months.”

Surrey’s Cannabis Legalization Report — A Framework for Action includes a review of existing context for federal and provincial regulations on cannabis, lessons learned from the United States experience, an overview of the medical uses and potential risks associated with weed, and “implementation of checklists for zoning and land use, bylaws and regulations, inspection and enforcement, revenue and economic development and education and public engagement.”

See also: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

Currently, Surrey does not permit dispensaries, like other cities such as Vancouver. “We have not permitted anyone to set up,” said Councillor Mike Starchuk. “We don’t want people to think they’ve got their foot in the door.”

Once legalization is complete, Starchuk noted, the city will only have control over zoning bylaws, where operations will be permitted to set up and in what proximity they will be to other amenities, such as schools and parks and rehab centres.

Last year, Starchuk, along with city staff, and delegates from RCMP and Fraser Health, went on a tour of several U.S. cities that have already gone through legalization, including Denver, Seattle and Portland.

“We got to see what the missteps were and I think more importantly, we got to see the financial burden – and I’m going to call it a burden – that it has the potential to place on municipalities,” explained Starchuk.“We asked, ‘If you could re-do this again, what the knowledge you now have, what would your changes be?”

In many of the cities visited, business license costs were higher than anticipated, so Starchuk said Surrey plans to look at their overall costs before determining that fee.

“We know this industry in other U.S. jurisdictions asked for more scrutiny to ensure the legitimacy of the business. It will add costs to the city with inspections and compliance issues (to do with) fire and bylaws, and possibly enforcement issues for bylaw and RCMP.”

Some cities, he noted, have set up “cannabis bureaus” with staff solely responsible for the stores that sell cannabis or businesses that produce or manufacture.

Meantime, Seattle and Portland saw an increase in policing costs due to a spike in impaired driving, said Starchuk.

“What we saw in Denver was a lot of statistical data that there was increased level of impairment for drivers after the recreational sale of cannabis,” he said. “We know there’s no machine you blow into that provides that data, and blood tests don’t really work in all cases because of the length of time the THC levels of cannabis stay in your system. We know RCMP are going to be faced with determining your level of impairment… There is training that can happen that correlates to their skill level to be able to determine that level of impairment. So how many people will have to be trained like this?”

Starchuk said he’s awaiting more information on the province related to personal cultivation because he heard on the tour that “personal cultivation has the potential to have a different effect on society and hopefully the provincial government will see it the same way.”

Starchuk said how the province will license the retail side of things is also unknown. “With liquor, there are only so many licences in the province,” he noted.

Starchuk said there hasn’t been a huge influx of interest, but some growers and retailers are beginning to inquire with city hall. But, he said, “we’ve made it abundantly clear that we are not allowing any businesses to be established in the city until we have everything in place.”

Starchuk also noted that Surrey has a plethora of Agricultural Land Reserve property in Surrey, where growth of cannabis is a permitted use. “We don’t know yet if companies are going to come knocking.”

The pricing model, Starchuk stressed, is going to be key in the success of cannabis legalization.

“The key is to make sure the price scale of the substance is not prohibitive…. When you take a look at Washington State and Oregon as well, the price per gram has dropped by about 30 per cent from its inception.… The lower the price there at government locations, the less likelihood the illegal market is to succeed…. They realized they weren’t winning that battle. The only way to put people out of business once its legalized is to make sure government products weren’t taxed so high that’s its cheaper to get elsewhere.”



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Amy on Twitter

Just Posted

People’s Party of Canada not finished, defeated Surrey candidate says

Surrey’s five PPC candidates combined received 4,213 votes

Player-of-year Seumanutafa leads UBC to women’s rugby title

Semiahmoo grads help Thunderbirds to first-ever Canada West rugby title

Diwali in Surrey: ‘Festival of light’ celebrations at several halls, a library, other venues

This year Diwali is on Sunday, Oct. 27, but Surrey-area events are held over a two-week period

Surrey City Centre plan expands to include new proposed SkyTrain station

New developments in business district to provide minimum 50% of floor space for office, institutional uses

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Three sprayed with mace during altercation at Port Coquitlam high school

Mounties are still working to determine exactly how many youth were involved

Investor alert: ‘Split games’ pyramid scheme circulating in B.C.

British Columbia Securities Commission issues warning about scheme selling virtual shares

Most Read