Mayors and Marijuana

by Gord Hume

I am amazed that every Mayor in Canada is not standing on her or his desk while hollering at local MPs and MPPs over the sharing of Marijuana tax revenues.

The feds and provinces seemed to be focused on splitting the billions of dollars that will pour in over taxing marijuana once it becomes legal in Canada. The recent meeting of the PM and Premiers seemed to leave out the one partner that is the most important in this emerging new reality: MUNICIPALITIES!!!

It is on the streets of our towns and cities that the hard reality of these new pot shops will occur. Whether they become government stores or private enterprise, municipalities will have to worry about zoning, policing, social impacts, health care and all of the problems and costs that will be inherent in introducing this new federal policy. 

That reality seems to be absent from the discussions being held by the lords and masters of the Canadian universe. Once again municipalities are on the outside looking in through the smoke and haze of whatever goes on in those exalted chambers.

I've been warning cities about this issue since I wrote the book "10 Trends for Smarter Communities" five years ago. I specifically talked about legalizing marijuana and the impact that would have for municipalities, and that cities needed to start thinking about the issue, the impacts, and who would share that revenue. Little seems to have been accomplished in protecting and promoting civic concerns.

As a minimum, the new tax revenue sharing should be 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. Local governments, as always, are going to be the most directly impacted. There are going to be some very interesting and important discussions around council tables about things like minimum distances from schools, libraries, churches, day-care centres and other established facilities. Certainly police forces have serious concerns about this new reality, and the costs that will come from everything from figuring out how to detect people high on drugs while driving to the inevitable street action from people over-indulging. There will be police costs, social costs and community costs. If municipalities don't get a fair share of new revenues instead of seeing it all funnelled into general revenues in Ottawa and the provincial capitals, local budgets will become even further stretched.

It is already late in the game for municipalities to be arguing about this issue. There seems to be a cozy arrangement between provinces and the feds shaping up. This is another example of municipalities being seated at the kid's table. It is not acceptable and civic leaders should be standing up and fighting like hell over the proposed tax distribution.

Gord Hume


Gord Hume is recognized as one of Canada's leading voices on municipal government and is an articulate and thoughtful commentator on civic government and community issues. He is a very popular public speaker, an advisor to municipal governments, and a respected and provocative author.

Gord was elected to London City Council four times. He has had a distinguished career in Canadian business, managing radio stations and as Publisher of a newspaper. Gord received two “Broadcaster of the Year' awards. He is now President of Hume Communications Inc., a professional independent advisor to municipalities.

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