The City of Cold Lake received a request by the Mid-Sized Cities’ Mayors and CAO’s Caucus for Mayor Craig Copeland to include his signature on a letter being sent to the Government of Alberta advocating several issues that they felt should be considered in legislation of the recreational use of cannabis. The draft of the letter contained points about age limits, retail outlet limitations, options to opt-out of retail sales, revenue splitting, and framework reviews.
City of Cold Lake Councillor Bob Buckle and City of Cold Lake Chief Administration Officer Kevin Nagoya attended Caucus meetings in Lloydminster which heard from three different U.S. municipalities that have experienced the legalization of cannabis. Nagoya briefed Council about some of the challenges with enforcement and land-use bylaws pertaining to manufacturing, production, and dispensary issues that were addressed. “There is so much information; I could talk for four hours about all the stuff brought up at the meeting. There were a lot of lessons learned from the two day meeting. They have a lot of challenges,” stated Nagoya.
Councilor Buckle explained the big things that came out of the meeting was how many gaps there are. “This deadline that has been artificially set in this country for implementation is like a freight training coming at us. There are things that came through at the discussion that our country is not ready to deal with yet but we will have to one way or the other,” explained Buckle. Although one community of 54,000 didn’t see a big change after implementation, the other two communities had a lot of issues after their second and third year in regards to neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and policing. “The black market got worse,” stated Buckle. “Opiate use increased. There were more house fires and explosions, and schools saw a start age of two years earlier for marijuana use.”
Buckle mentioned the communities’ problems with increase in truancy in schools, an increase in mental health issues including schizophrenia. There were increases in traffic concerns; even waste water was effected because of the high levels of nutrients flushed into the system from fertilizers. The communities discussed displacement of commercial businesses, impaired driving spikes, employers who had to write new policies, and redirection of policing services.
After a lengthy discussion on the topic, Council passed a motion to accept the letter as information only. All Councillors were in favour. Mayor Copeland explained, “This letter would be committing to some topics that make us have heartburn on some of the bullet points in the letter, so maybe it’s best we don’t sign it.”