Pitt Meadows city hall is planning to host a forum on cannabis legalization for Lower Mainland municipalities. (Contributed)

Pitt Meadows to host forum on pot legalization

City wants to bring Lower Mainland municipalities together

Pitt Meadows city hall wants to host a cannabis forum for municipalities in the Lower Mainland.

One of the last motions passed by the outgoing council headed by Mayor John Becker was to direct city staff to begin planning the event “to discuss issues associated with legalization of recreational and medical cannabis for Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley local governments.”

Staff will prepare a report including a proposed budget and format for the forum.

Mayor elect Bill Dingwall supported the event, and wants to see the report from staff with his new council. He said cannabis is going to present challenges to cities.

“We’re all dealing with the same issues, whether it’s revenue sharing, what are the legal implications around production in Agricultural Land Reserve lands, how do we deal with citizen concerns, compliance and enforcement issues… There’s a lot that we need to deal with,” said Dingwall.

”There may be legal implications if we deny a retail application, or if we are dealing with somebody who wants to grow pot in the farmlands, but it’s not meeting with our bylaws.

“Having the Metro mayors and staff working together to figure out how we maneouvre through all of this, I think is really, really important,” he said.

“This is a big one that Pitt Meadows is taking the lead on.”

The plan is to include senior governments and first nations, and host the forum early in 2019.

A report was prepared by Lisa Grant, director of community services, in which she outlined five concerns:

• Health and safety implications of growing cannabis in a residential building.

• Impairment: “The inability to test for impairment is concerning for the overall safety of our communities and police forces. This includes driving impairment.”

The report notes that in Washington State, which has legalized cannabis, between 2010 and 2014 collision rates increased by 122 per cent due to impairment from cannabis.

• Enforcement: The report anticipates municipalities will receive an increase in bylaw enforcement complaints associated with the odour from grow-ops and nuisance associated with smoke from cannabis.

• Expenses related to cannabis administration. The report cites Surrey’s Cannabis Legalization Guide, which states that in Denver the cost of administering business licenses exceeded revenues.

“Business license fees will be a challenge to set at a level that adequately addresses this gap,” said the report.

• Capacity: Local governments will be required to increase capacity to deal with issues arising from the production, processing, distribution and sale of cannabis. This includes licensing system, inspections, training for law enforcement and bylaw officers, develop and deliver public education and awareness campaigns.

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