Municipalities across Ontario are following Toronto’s lead and calling on the province to fund local policing efforts and other responsibilities once new marijuana laws come into effect.
“We’re where the rubber meets the road,” said Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) president Lynn Dollin.
Ontario became the first province to propose legislation regulating how recreational marijuana will be sold, with plans to introduce an LCBO-style network of more than 150 stores by 2020.
Meanwhile Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has vowed to crack down on illegal medical marijuana dispensaries across the province, an effort municipal police forces warn could be costly.
There are currently 17 illegal pot dispensaries in Ottawa, and as fast as police shut them down, they open back up.
Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau said local police forces need more money and better tools to deal with the problem, and the AMO agrees.
“We’ll be making sure we get full cost recovery,” Dollin said.
List of demands
The AMO, which represents more than 400 cities and towns outside Toronto, has been tasked by its members to stickhandle negotiations on the issue with the province, and has come up with a list of demands on their behalf.
“We need the cost provided by the province. It shouldn’t be borne by the property tax payer,” Dollin said.
Among the changes the AMO is requesting are new powers to use zoning bylaws to put the dispensaries out of business for good.
Jessica Martin, senior communications adviser to Finance Minister Charles Sousa, said the province is meeting with municipalities to discuss “costs associated with legalizing marijuana.”
“At this stage, it would be premature to establish a framework, given that the federal taxation approach has not yet been disclosed,” Martin wrote in an email to CBC.
Marijuana task force
Mathieu Fleury, the Ottawa city councillor for Rideau-Vanier, is a member of a task force struck by the AMO to delve into the issue.
Fleury agreed it’s too early to discuss figures, but said new sources of revenue will be required. He said the task force is weighing some of the experiences of other North American cities including…