On April 13, the federal government introduced legislation (Bill C-45) to legalize and control the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis. Companion legislation (Bill C-46) would strengthen impaired driving laws in connection with cannabis use.
Passing this legislation will trigger an extensive implementation process involving all orders of government. Federal responsibilities will include regulating production, age standards, impairment and personal cultivation. Provinces and territories will have wide flexibility to regulate distribution.
Municipal responsibilities will be largely driven by the rules and regulations around licensing, distribution, consumption, and health and safety that emerge at the provincial level. These local roles could range from updating zoning by-laws to enforcing new impaired driving laws, and potentially much more.
The legislation does respond to some municipal concerns, but important questions remain about the full implications for local governments.
Need clarity and consultation
To carry this out in a safe and principled way across Canada, within the federal government’s July 2018 timeline, municipalities need to be at the planning table early and often.
FCM continues to take that message to federal officials, at both political and staff levels. We are seeking clarity on unanswered questions that this legislation raises.
In particular, we all need to know that legalization will not download unsustainable financial or operational burdens to municipalities. And we’re encouraged by federal ministers’ clear public statements that local governments are vital partners in realizing this federal commitment.
It is already clear that the work ahead will vary across the country. FCM continues to engage with Provincial and Territorial Associations on the implications of this legislation and will keep municipalities informed.