Nova Scotia

Three-pronged pot consultation won't include public meetings

Roll-out of Nova Scotia's public consultation plan coming in next few weeks

Medical marijuana magnifying glass

If you want to tell the Nova Scotia government your thoughts on legalized marijuana, be prepared to go online. (Matthew Staver/Bloomberg)

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If you want to tell the Nova Scotia government your thoughts on pot — how it should be sold, how old you should be to buy it, or where to legally consume it — you'll have to go online or be home when a pollster comes calling.

Nova Scotia's public consultation process on legalized marijuana, rolling out later this fall, will be three-pronged approach that won't include public meetings, Justice Minister Mark Furey told CBC News.

"There'll be an online component so Nova Scotians can have input," he said, speaking Wednesday outside the legislative chamber at Province House. "There'll be a public opinion telephone poll and there will be continued discussion with stakeholders."

Stakeholders include "law enforcement, the legal community, the general public at large, special interest groups, and health care," said Furey, who is a retired RCMP officer.

Businesses currently selling marijuana or related products would have an "opportunity" to provide input, he said, but the province hasn't reached out to get it. "We haven't had any direct conversation with them at this point."

Online access

Furey said he expects that most opinions would likely be gathered online.

"That will afford every Nova Scotian the opportunity to provide input, and the public opinion telephone polling will capture another element or component of Nova Scotians."

Mark Furey

Justice Minister Mark Furey says Nova Scotia's public consultation process will be three-pronged approach that won't include public meetings. (CBC)

But the province's Official Opposition said those options fall short, calling for public meetings as part of the process.

"There's many Nova Scotians without access to … basic internet service," said PC MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, noting that reliable connectivity is an issue in parts of her riding of Cumberland North. "So to have that as the only form of public consultation isn't good enough."

Furey said there are a number of ways Nova Scotians can get online, such as using public computers at their local libraries, fire halls and community centres.

Atlantic-wide approach needed

The government has also been talking to the other Atlantic provinces, looking for common ground on the issue. That, too, needed to be considered in developing a policy on pot, Furey said.

"We have taken the position that the best approach is a regional approach," he said. "We don't want to get into a cross-border issue of shopping for legal cannabis."

The plan is to let the public know "over the next few weeks" how they can let their voices be heard, Furey said.

"There are different opinions and views on age and the retail model and how and where it should be consumed. I think that input is important and certainly valuable for me to be aware of."

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