Delta mayoral candidate Jim Cessford says the City of Delta isn’t prepared for the legalization of marijuana.
In a submission to the North Delta Reporter, the former DPD chief highlighted public safety and community consultation as his top priorities when it comes to managing the impact that legal cannabis will have on Delta in the years to come.
“I support decriminalization; we are long past the point of making simple possession a criminal offence,” Cessford said. “Legalization is a step further and both our senior government partners (federal and provincial) have enacted laws legalizing it and the distribution mechanisms. It’s now up to us at the municipal level to address the concerns of our residents and businesses [and] make sure that we are as prepared as we can be.”
To that end, Cessford pledged that if elected he would create a “public engagement forum” that includes the Delta school board and other stakeholders to “create a vision of how we as a community want to — and need to — address municipal policies regarding cannabis use and growth that would support public safety and quality of life for all residents.”
Cessford said that after reaching out to residents via social media he’s learned that their top concern is protecting children and youth, followed by exposure to marijuana smoke in public spaces, near schools, and in housing communities and condos. Consultation with the public, he said, is the key to alleviating those fears and creating a way forward that everyone can live with.
“It’s a known fact that no matter how great your solution, if you don’t bring residents into it, get them to buy in, you will fail. There has to be an intelligent, empathetic and inclusive policy [for] Delta,” he said.
“One of the major issues around legalization is distribution and the licensing of dispensaries. If we do not openly discuss this with our neighbours we won’t be able to balance their interests. Legal businesses are subject to regulations, but those regulations should be fair and well thought out.”
Cessford also heard from local Realtors who expressed their concerns that they’d be expected to report people growing marijuana in their homes.
“The issue isn’t just a Realtor issue but also a policing one. The law says four plants, what happens if somebody grows five? Are we now putting that house on surveillance and going through the same lengthy processes we would if it were an illegal grow op?” he asked.
“Realtors by law must ask sellers if their property has ever been a grow op. Does four plants constitute a grow op? We needed far more public consultation on this before it came into law, [and] this is but one of the issues we will have to manage as a community.”
Cessford also noted his concern that Delta and other communities will see a short-term spike in policing costs and an increased number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities, and spoke of the need to protect agricultural land and encourage food production “as cannabis becomes a more lucrative product to grow than cucumbers or tomatoes.”
The civic election will take place on Oct. 20, with advance voting on Oct. 6, 10 and 11.