At the latest Alberta Urban Municipalities Association Mayor's Caucus in Edmonton a controversial discussion came up with both mayors and representatives of AUMA about the eventual legalization of marijuana and the steps communities will have to take to properly manage it when it becomes as legal as smoking a cigarette.

A number of law enforcement members presented to the caucus on areas such as scope and timing of provincial regulations along with task force recommendations when dealing with cannabis users.

TanyathornpicOkotoks Town Councillor Tanya Thorn

Director of Towns South on the AUMA Board of Directors and Okotoks Town Councillor Tanya Thorn says municipalities need to start getting their procedures in place now before provincial and federal legislation is approved.

She says listening into a presentation on the legalized state of Colorado and the City of Denver really put things into perspective of what could happen close to home.

"There was a study that they talked about out of Colorado that saw a 48 percent increase in traffic related deaths," she says. "There was close to a 50 percent increase in ER visits, a 32 percent increase in hospitalization because of overdosing on THC."

Thorn says the trickle down impact of legalized marijuana could have significant impacts on local youth.

"If you ask them if they'll drink and drive, the majority of them say no, but if you ask them if they'll do marijuana and drive the majority of them say yes, that's concerning. Statistics show that marijuana users typically will also be drinking. So when you start combining marijuana and alcohol, the impact to your impairment is significant."

Through the event Thorn noticed that it isn't just smoking cannabis that's could become an issue.

"A lot of users aren't smoking marijuana, THC is easily put into other forms. The list they're seeing in retail stores are things like gummy bears, mints or spaghetti. In my opinion it was overwhelming to that because how do you start to identify that and recognize that it's even being used?"

The Town of Okotoks has not released an approach to legal marijuana use but there is no specific timeline yet of when it could be finalized by the Alberta & Canadian Governments.

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