Maple Ridge waiting with its bylaws once recreational pot is legal

Maple Ridge waiting with its bylaws once recreational pot is legal

A 75-25 share of the pot proceeds, a dollar a gram tax, or 10 per cent, and if the money really starts to roll in, the feds will only take a cut of $100 million.

The numbers are the latest kernels dropped, as the federal government moves towards its July 1 deadline for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Once everything becomes legal and the smoke clears, it may still take awhile to see the black market fade away, said the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition.

“There’s a huge, complex system out there operating in the world that has been delivering excellent product to people at reasonable prices for 40 years now,” says Donald MacPherson, with the coalition.

Maple Ridge Coun. Bob Masse said he’s not sure if the dispensaries that are currently selling medicinal marijuana will be allowed to sell recreational marijuana.

“That remains to be seen, doesn’t it?”

But if the product is available enough to people who want to buy it, that could kill the black market, he added.

“I think it will eliminate a lot of the problem with the criminal element involved in the marijuana industry,” Masse said.

However, he thinks if the tax is too high, the black market will move in.

Masse sees recreational marijuana sales as copying the private and public liquor store models, which set out building standards and spacing.

“I definitely think there should be some rules surrounding it.”

A Dec. 5 announcement by the provincial government says that the minimum age for buying recreational marijuana will be 19, as it is for alcohol and cigarettes, and that the Liquor Distribution Branch will be the wholesale distributor for it.

But who and how recreational marijuana will be sold won’t be known until 2018.

Masse wants a good portion of the province’s share of the taxes to go to cities to help pay for zoning and enforcement.

“I would be very unhappy if that doesn’t happen.”

Maple Ridge bylaws director Robin MacNair said the city has already dissuaded two stores from jumping the gun and opening to sell recreational marijuana before it’s legalized.

Once the final set of rules are announced, Maple Ridge bylaws staff will write a report to council on the possible zoning changes that will need to be made, added MacNair.

“We’re just preparing ourselves for zoning.”

Coun. Craig Speirs warned that the $1 a gram tax could be too high, which would encourage black market producers. He maintains that small pot producers should be allowed to sell recreational marijuana to allow the development of a craft industry and to discourage the black market and to increase availability of legal marijuana.

“You’re not going to be able to corner the market with licensed producers.”

He’s not worried about a black market still pumping out pot, once it’s legal.

“There’s not enough money in it for gangs.”

Once legal, the city will require pot stores to have business licences, “just like a normal business.”

Businesses are planning for the law to come into place and for legalization of recreational marijuana to become reality.

“People are just waiting because people want to do things that are legal.”

That, Speirs added, includes organized crime, which could move from the black market to legal sales “and become part of the system. That would be helpful.”

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