Countdown to light up
There are just more than three months to go before marijuana becomes legal in Ontario and throughout the country, and it’s clear there are still myriad unanswered questions about just how everything will work.
County councillors discussed the impending legislation, set to take effect Oct. 18, during a meeting last week.
The legalization of marijuana presents a number of potential burdens for municipalities in terms of bylaw enforcement, the activities of their planning departments, and other ramifications.
In short, legalized pot will create additional work for local governments.
One of the many unanswered questions surrounding the change is how much funding Ontario municipalities will receive to assist with associated costs.
The federal government will keep 25 per cent of pot tax revenues, while 75 per cent will go to the provinces.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said during last week’s meeting that the lion’s share of provincial revenues should be redistributed amongst Ontario’s municipalities and he is right. This was a federal decision, with the responsibility of designing distribution systems assigned to provinces. Municipalities should not have to bear additional costs while the upper levels of government rake in new tax revenues.
That is unfair.
There are unanswered questions for law enforcement, too. For example, while new legislation will give police the authority to conduct roadside tests to determine if people are driving under the influence of marijuana, that technology is not yet in the hands of police.
Aside from the presence of government-run cannabis stores (the closest one to Haliburton County, at least at first, will be in Lindsay), it seems likely the legalization of pot will be largely unnoticeable. Just like it’s illegal to consume alcohol in public, it will remain illegal to consume marijuana in public. Just like you don’t often see drunken people walking down the sidewalk carrying bottles of booze, you’re unlikely to see stoned people walking down the street taking hits from a bong. While it’s been illegal in this country, marijuana is certainly not difficult to find and is commonly used. Depending on what source one consults, somewhere between 18 and 30 per cent of Canadian adults smoke marijuana, at least on a recreational basis. Those who smoke will continue to smoke, likely in the places they’ve always smoked, and those who don’t smoke will likely continue to not smoke. Again, it’s not like the stuff has not been easily available since the beginning of time.
Regardless of how noticeable the change might be, with less than four months until cannabis becomes legal, it’s time for the province to start answering the questions of municipalities. First and foremost, how much funding will they receive?
It better be high.