It is unknown how much it will cost for a business licence to set up a retail cannabis shop in Prince Albert, though Mayor Greg Dionne projected it could be a pretty penny.
Last week, a Saskatoon city council committee recommended marijuana retailers there pay a $20,000 licensing fee and $10,000 annual renewal commercial business license fee. Regular business licences in Saskatoon cost just $125, with a renewal fee of $85. Regina does not have a commercial business licence regime, meaning there will be no upfront cost to set up shop. Saskatoon defended its pricy proposal by calculating the cost of staff hours committed to the process and charging accordingly. With seven licences available for the city, around $140,000 could potentially be collected before any cannabis is sold.
Prince Albert's Director of Planning and Development Craig Guidinger said the Gateway to the North is closely examining a large number of factors as it grinds away at the final details of local legislation.
“We have rules and regulations that we have to follow. Business licensing is done in accordance with the Cities Act, and there are certain things we can and can’t charge for,” Guidinger said. “We will be taking a close look at what these types of business will potentially cost the city [administratively]."
While Guidinger was confident the city will meet any and all deadlines along the road to legalization, he noted the constant movement on the file at both the provincial and federal levels and said the city has to be flexible.
“We will be providing some information to city council coming up at the end of June and we will be looking to formalize some of these bylaw amendments shortly thereafter,” he said.
Mayor Dionne said he believes Saskatoon took an appropriate approach to calculate local licensing fees. He said the amount the city will spend tweaking and crafting legislation will be similar to Saskatoon, but with the opportunity to benefit from only two licences on offer, nailing down a final price could prove difficult.
“Is our fee going to be $50,000, $70,000, $20,000?” Dionne said. “We are going to ask the province again, ‘are we going to share the revenue?’ Because, at the end of the day, that is about getting the money back for the [administrative] costs."
Dionne said he always held trepidation on the exact timeline and was less optimistic than city staff when it came to meeting deadlines. He anticipated a special council meeting would be needed to rubber-stamp the law in time.
“I will be meeting with city clerk and director to see how we can move this forward,” he said.
Federal legalization inched closer to the finish line Monday after the House of Commons voted 205-82 in favour of accepting most of the amendments the Senate made to The Cannabis Act. The Red Chamber proposed 46, but 13 were rejected, including a contentious prevision over provincial rights to ban home-grown marijuana.
Senators scrutinized Bill C-45 for a few hours Monday evening but adjourned further talks until Tuesday. If senators approve the bill as-is, it will be sent to the Governor General for royal assent. If the Upper Chamber rejects the government’s decision to deny some of the changes, it will be sent back to the House.
There is an eight to 12-week buffer provision built in Bill C-45 to give stakeholders time to prepare for the actual date of legalization, which will be set by the prime minister and cabinet.
-- With files from 650 CKOM and The Canadian Press.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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