To the folks at city hall, Kelowna asking for a cut of provincial pot revenues to pay for dealing with the cost of retail marijuana dispensaries is totally justifiable.
As the city sees it, municipal staff will be the ones who will not only have to figure out where they are to be located, but will also have to deal with the business licensing associated with them, zone the land they sit on, enforce provincial and city rules associated with their operation and make sure they run according to the letter of the law.
The issue is of such concern that city staff, at the urging a Mayor Colin Basran and his councillors, are making the request not once, but as part of each recommendation it sends the province in the input requested by Victoria concerning how pot will be distributed, sold and governed once the federal government makes it legal on July 1, 2018.
The city’s concerns, however, need to be tempered by the fact it is asking to be the one to deal with pot shops in the city.
Unlike some other municipalities—and some provinces—Kelowna wants to see the sale of marijuana handled through private storefront dispensaries—businesses it would have jurisdiction over when it comes to location, zoning and operation (through business licences.) It wants pot shops treated in a similar way to private liquor stores in this province.
Of course the request, at this point, is only input. No final decision has been made by the province as to how things will ultimately be done in B.C.
But the bottom line is the city is asking for money to deal with an issue that it wants to create for itself.
Of course, if the province decides to download responsibility for pot shops onto municipalities, then giving them a cut of the revenue Victoria stands to make through taxation of legal marijuana is justified. But at this point, Kelowna is asking for money to cover the costs of actions it wants the power to administer.
Like so many other actions by the feds and the province, this seems like another case of the two higher levels of government once again acting like the “big picture” folks, leaving the details to the municipalities.
Ottawa makes the rule to legalize pot and passes the task of dealing with it the provinces. The province, in turn, takes the revenue and—albeit with suggestions from municipalities—downloads the work to the cities and towns.
Chances are high that’s how this issue is going to break down as well.
Of course that would please Kelowna, given its recommendations. But it does not want to be the one footing the bill for that “privilege.”
So it is shouting “show me the money!”
Kelowna may want a slice of the province’s pot pie. The question is whether or not it will get it.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.
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