When it comes to cannabis legalization and things like age limit, distribution, and taxation, British Columbians are still hearing crickets from our provincial government.
While some provinces have reached out to citizens through online surveys, others have shown interest in providing incentives to small businesses, while others still are hoping for a regional distribution plan.
A provincial-territorial working group on cannabis legalization was established at a recent meeting between premiers in Edmonton, and the group is expected to report back to premiers by November 1, with information about common considerations and best practices for legalization and regulation. (Premier Horgan was not at that meeting.)
So far, all we’ve learned is that Solicitor General Mike Farnworth will lead planning for the safe implementation of legalized cannabis.
It looks like British Columbians might be waiting a little bit longer to find out exactly how our ND-Green government plans to distribute and tax cannabis when it’s legalized in 2018, but for now, here’s what other governments are doing to prepare.
Our neighbours to the east held a public engagement process that gave citizens two months to complete an online survey, while organizations were invited to participate in round tables, sector meetings, or make written submissions about the pending legislation.
Topics in the survey included legal age, where to purchase cannabis, using cannabis in public, and road safety.
More than 45,000 Albertans responded to the survey and 100 organizations provided feedback. The province is currently reviewing the engagement findings and will work to develop the Alberta Cannabis Framework, which will be released in draft form to stakeholders and the public in the fall.
This province’s plans for distribution are still quite hazy, which is obvious given Premier Brad Wall’s recent call to delay the federal government’s plan of legalizing cannabis by July 1, 2018.
His office hasn’t provided the public with so much as a timeline on when or how they plan to develop the province’s framework for distribution, but did say in a written statement that a they’ve organized a working group that will ‘consider the various aspects of the federal legislation, such as the implementation of necessary provincial legislation and regulations, and the creation of an effective model for distribution and taxation.’
While mayors of Regina and Saskatoon have said that revenue from cannabis sales should go to cities to cover the ‘additional costs’ of legalization, Wall has publicly disagreed, saying that revenues should go to education and the prevention of drug-impaired driving.
Like Wall in Saskatchewan, Premier Brian Pallister has putting more energy into convincing the federal government to delay the proposed date for legalization than coming up with a plan to implement it. (At the Council of Federation meeting last month between Canadian premiers, Pallister said he wanted it delayed for an entire year).
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott made it clear during a recent visit to Winnipeg that such an extension would not be available to any provinces.
So far, some are saying the biggest potential players for distribution in Manitoba could be pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart.
Like Alberta, Ontario also launched a public consultation—albeit for a much shorter period of time—with similar questions that pertained to minimum age, where to purchase and use cannabis, road safety, distribution, and public education.
It’s also established Ontario’s Legalization of Cannabis Secretariat, a group made up of various provincial officials that will meet with public health experts to discuss the implications of legalization.
The province is in the midst of preparing an education campaign that will highlight the dangers of cannabis as it pertains to young adults. Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins says it will help ‘parents and kids understand what the risks are’.
While independent medical cannabis clinics and those operated by licensed producers continue to open up around the province, dispensaries are being raided consistently in Ontario, despite plans to legalize recreational cannabis. Former provincial chief of staff Omar Khan recently told the CBC that dispensary owners that think they’ll be included in the province’s legal framework are ‘dreaming in technicolour.’
Possibly the most pessimistic of provinces and territories with regard to cannabis legalization is Quebec. A recent CBC survey showed that residents there are less likely to be in favour of legalization, less interested in having cannabis shops in their neighbourhoods, and not entirely convinced that legalization will stem the black market.
Quebec’s provincial government is expected to table cannabis legislation in the fall, and will meet with experts before consulting with the public later this month. Those interested in taking part in consultations must register to do so.
Last month’s release of police-reported statistics from Statistics Canada showed that while the rest of Canada saw a decrease in the number of cannabis-related charges, those charges were on the rise in Montreal and other parts of Quebec.
We don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this maritime province has come up with the most progressive solutions to building a provincial framework. Politicians there began doing research and exploring possibilities before the federal government even released the legislation for cannabis legalization. (Although, this education campaign from the New Brunswick Medical Society might be a step in the wrong direction.)
Instead of fearing the work associated with developing legislation as so many other provinces seem to be doing, Premier Brian Gallant has told the media that he sees legalization as a way to boost the province’s economy, even going so far as to declare marijuana a pillar of the province’s economic strategy.
In addition, the provincial government is providing producers with financial incentives to set up shop. At Fredericton’s St. Thomas University, a cannabis research chair will soon be appointed, and will work closely with government officials on developing sound public policy.
Prince Edward Island
In P.E.I., Premier Wade MacLachlan has said that although the province has yet to make a decision about age limit, distribution, or taxation, he hopes that there is room among the four maritime provinces for cooperation, and hinted to harmonizing the approach to legalization in the region.
Public consultations in the province are set to begin in late August and run into September. MacLachlan has stressed the importance of public education campaigns, particularly with regard to impaired driving.
Unlike premiers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has told the media that his government is planning to have rules and regulations for legalization in place in time for Prime Minister Trudeau’s July 1, 2018 deadline.
The premier has also said that he’s waiting on more information from the federal government before moving forward. Like MacLachlan in P.E.I., he hopes to see a regulatory framework in Atlantic Canada that is consistent across all four provinces. He’s suggested that a legal age of 19 for cannabis makes sense.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Following a plan similar to other provinces, the province implemented an online questionnaire and gave residents of Newfoundland and Labrador until early July to take part. It covered topics like points of sale, legal age, enforcement, and road safety.
No major decisions have been made yet, as policy makers are currently in talks with doctors and business leaders as questionnaire data is reviewed.
Unlike leaders in New Brunswick, justice and public safety minister Andrew Parsons has warned against the idea that cannabis could be an opportunity to kickstart the province’s economy.
This territory has taken the route of offering its residents the chance to provide feedback through an online survey, asking questions about legal age, where it could be sold and consumed, and about safety in the workplace and on the road.
The Yukon government has told residents that its decisions will be guided by principles that ‘provide for legal controlled access to cannabis that displaces illegal and criminal activity,’ and ‘prioritize(s) public health, safety and harm reduction, with a focus on protecting youth from negative health effects.’
Yukoners have until September 30 to complete the survey, and the results are set to be posted by November 15.
Northwest Territories has also offered residents an online survey, which received a record number of responses in its first week. (CBC reported that the survey was the territory’s most popular public engagement ever.)
The anonymous survey, which covers topics unique to the territory, includes concerns about access to cannabis in remote communities, as well as the suggested legal age, and if cannabis should be sold through a liquor commission. It’s open to residents until September 22.
CBC reported that the territorial government will provide mail order or fly-in options for remote communities, but will ‘respect communities that decide to go down a prohibition path.’ Indigenous and community leaders have also been invited to provide feedback to the government.
You might be surprised to learn that, per capita, Nunavut boasts the highest number of marijuana users in Canada. Unfortunately, the territorial government in Nunavut made a whole lot of headway on creating a regulatory framework as a territorial election will take place on October 30. (This gives their government just two sittings before marijuana becomes legal.)
So far, Premier Peter Taptuna hasn’t said much, but finance minister Keith Peterson has announced that Nunavut’s legislature would conduct its own broad community consultations with different groups and organizations to ‘get some good recommendations on how to proceed.’
Some MLAs have expressed concern about ‘dry’ communities in the territory, and whether or not the same school of thought will apply to legal cannabis.