City of Surrey encourages other municipalities to adopt its response to cannabis legalization

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      The City of Surrey has released a detailed framework for how local governments in B.C. can regulate cannabis after it becomes legal later this year.

      Mayor Linda Hepner has encouraged other municipalities across the province to make use of it in preparing how they will deal with this issue when Bill C-45 (Cannabis Act) becomes law.

      "Our report was prepared following a comprehensive review of best practices in jurisdictions of the United States with legal recreational cannabis markets," Hepner said in a news release. "Council and I have directed staff to implement the necessary steps outlined in the framework over the coming months.”

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize cannabis by July 1 but the legislation could still get delayed in the Senate.

      "It will be necessary to support staff with new training protocols, guidelines and procedures related to regulatory changes and new licensing systems," the City of Surrey report states. "This will require investment early in the process to ensure effective implementation."

      The report also notes that municipalities will have to work with provincial regulators "to ensure that workplace safety standards accommodate any necessary changes to definitions of impairment, and any concerns around safety-sensitive positions".

      That's in addition to establishing a municipal licensing system and determining licence prices.

      The City of Surrey report advocates for "appropriate buffer zones" in land-use planning and inspection regimes.

      However, it doesn't outline outline what specific rules Surrey should adopt. Instead, it provides a checklist of what staff and members of council should be considering in their deliberations.

      It also encourages local governments to introduce revenue-generation tools to cover the cost of funding the development of new bylaws, oversight structures, and public education.

      The report points out that local governments could find that they're losing money if they don't set the right price for licensees.

      "For example, the Seattle Finance and Administration Services Department recently estimated that the cost of administering each City of Seattle cannabis licence is about $4,000 per year versus the $1,500 revenue per licence per year, a $2,500 deficit per licence per year."

      There is also a section dealing with which areas fall under local responsibility. According to the report, these include education, taxation, location of retail outlets, regulatory compliance, public consumption, and land use.

      But other issues related to legal cannabis remain under the jurisdiction of senior governments, such as advertising and packaging, medical cannabis, impaired driving, and distribution and wholesale, among others.

      The report explains different types of cannabis, various methods of consumption, and the characteristics of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and terpenes.

      Kief, for example is described as "a powder made from the trichomes of the cannabis plant, while hashish is the resin that is produced when the trichomes are pressed".

      There are also descriptions of hash oil, shatter, budder, was, honeycomb, and rosin.

      In addition, the report goes into some detail about how perceptions about cannabis have changed dramatically over the years.

      "There remains however clear differences among different subgroups," it states, "for example, millennials commonly view cannabis in a more positive light, and generation X and baby boomers are much more likely to equate the negative effects of cannabis with those of other drugs."

      It acknowledges some of the difficulties in testing for cannabis impairment behind the wheel.

      "Some heavy regular users of cannabis, including those who use it for medical purposes, may not show any obvious signs of impairment even with significant THC concentrations in their blood," the report states. "Conversely, infrequent users with the same or lower THC concentrations may demonstrate more significant impairment."

      It relies on Health Canada information with regard to medicinal benefits, mainly mentioning how it can help people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, insomnia, a depressed mood, and symptoms experienced by those in palliative care.

      "Like all local governments, the City of Surrey must determine the changes needed to ensure an effective response to cannabis legalization," Hepner said. "That is why we have developed a balanced, appropriate, and evidence-based approach in line with our public-safety strategy."