Municipalities are united in the demand for revenues from the province to deal with arrival of marijuana retail sales next year, say the mayors of Kelowna and West Kelowna.—Image: Pixabay

Kelowna, West Kelowna asking for one-third of pot revenues

West Kelowna to initiate a letter-writing campaign to press for money from province

Kelowna’s mayor says what he heard from the province Tuesday about the rules regarding the distribution and planned retail method for marijuana in B.C. once the federal government makes it legal across Canada July, 1, 2018 was fine.

But it was what he didn’t hear that concerns him

Colin Basran said Wednesday the announcement fell short in that it did not address the contentious issue of cost-sharing with the municipalities, an issue he said is a unanimous request among cities and towns across B.C.

And he added the issue of how the private sector will be involved in the retailing of the drug also needs to be clarified sooner rather than later.

“Will it be dispensaries or not. We just don’t know,” said Basran.

The province announced the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will handle the wholesale distribution of marijuana in the province once it is legalized next July and it will be sold by both government stores and private retailers.

Basran said the clock is ticking for municipalities to learn how much, if any, of the revenues generated by marijuana sales will go to municipalities to handle issues like zoning, enforcement, inspection and other issues associated with allowing stores that sell the drug in the city.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater expressed the same concern.

He said while his council had not favoured private retailers in the input it gave to the province, if it is to be allowed municipalities must get money to make it work.

Both he and Basran said they favor an equal split among the federal, provincial and municipal governments, of one-third each.

Findlater said his council plans to write a letter to the province proposing that and will try and generate a letter-writing campaign supporting that position by all other municipalities in B.C.

The move to write the letter and start the campaign will be discussed at West Kelowna council’s next meeting Dec. 12.

What the province announced on Tuesday does fit with what Kelowna city council wanted—as expressed in its input to the government—with the exception of the revenue sharing and specifics about the retail structure.

Basran said he feared if the province waits too long to let municipalities know how it plans to proceed on those two important issues, Kelowna may not be ready in time to deal with allowing private retailers by July 1.

“It involves zoning and enforcement, and those are two areas where the city is already pretty busy,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite the province saying there will be some sort of private retail allowed, Basran said his city has no intention of stopping its move to get a court injunction to shut down existing private marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in the city.

In West Kelowna, the RCMP has picked up the issue and has written to all the dispensaries operating there warning them to shut down or face the consequences of operating an illegal business.

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