Blackfalds to receive provincial government funds for cannabis legalization

Blackfalds will receive some funds through the Municipal Cannabis Transition Program (MCTP) to cover some of the cost of legalizing cannabis in the community. Metro Creative News

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The Town of Blackfalds will be getting some monies to cover part of the cost of the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis last year.

During their regular meeting Tuesday, council agreed to enter a funding agreement where they will receive $28,512 for 2018 and another $21,934 in 2019 for a total of $50,446 through the Municipal Cannabis Transition Program (MCTP).

The program was one set up by the Alberta government as a response to municipalities across the province asking for funding support as many of the legalization processes were downloaded onto individual communities, in particular in the areas of enforcement and administrative costs. The amounts received are based on a funding formula, which includes a base fund of $10,000, and a set amount of funding per capita.

While the town’s estimation of what legalization will cost them is $82,464, council was pleased a large portion would be recouped.

“This is really a responsible move by the provincial government on something that was downloaded equally onto them as it was to us from the federal government,” said Coun. Will Taylor. “This is a reasonable attempt to be responsible and I think in doing that, the province has done a great job.”

Guidelines for the funds require they be used in one of two streams – enforcement and administration. In Blackfalds, they expect to put the monies towards signage for parks and playgrounds making users aware that the use of cannabis is not permitted, as well as the legal costs associated with the development and enforcement of bylaws, education and outreach, and incremental staffing for both administration and enforcement with regards to wages attributed to cannabis related activities.

Still the $30,000 shortfall is something they would’ve liked to see addressed.

“It’s a good start,” said Blackfalds Mayor Richard Poole. “As Coun. Taylor mentioned, we’re grateful the provincial government is providing something back. We’d like to look at it and find out if the portions are equitable compared to what they are receiving from the federal government.

“We’re going to keep track of it and providing  information to AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) and finding out whether or not we need to be lobbying  for more money in future years. It would’ve been nice to have all of it, but we’ve got some back and now it’s how we move forward.”

Given the decision was made by the federal government, however, Coun. Taylor further expressed a desire to see them chip in to municipalities as well.

“It would be nice to see the federal government also step up to the plate because it was a decision federally that happened that created this work,” he said.

Administration stressed they would track all costs associated with cannabis legalization and forward that information to AUMA so a decision can be made in the future on if there is a need to lobby the feds, and for how much.

Still, it’s difficult to truly gauge how much cannabis legalization will affect Blackfalds dollar-wise, as no cannabis-related businesses have set up shop at this point in the community – not that they aren’t waiting to do so.

“We’ve had interest and applications, but I don’t think we’ve approved any yet,” said Poole. “They’re most likely waiting to make sure supplies are available before they open up.”

The AGLC put a halt on new cannabis licences for retail stores in November due to a national shortage of product. Neither Lacombe nor Blackfalds have had any cannabis businesses open as a result, and the Calgary Herald reported on Wednesday the moratorium could cost the industry $13 million as well as 1,800 jobs, according to retailers.

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