Majority of Manitobans say marijuana should be sold in government-run stores once legalized: poll

The province’s largest union says the majority of Manitobans want marijuana sold in government-run stores if legalized, and is calling on the province to ensure that happens.

65 per cent say drug should be sold in stand-alone, government-run stores, finds MGEU survey

Medical marijuana being rolled into a joint. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

The province's largest union says the majority of Manitobans want marijuana sold in government-run stores if legalized.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, which represents liquor store workers in the province, commissioned Probe Research to poll 1,000 people by phone on the subject.

Probe findings released Thursday found that 65 per cent of those surveyed say marijuana should be sold in government-run stores that aren't attached to existing liquor stores.

Marijuana isn't legal in Canada, but the federal government has said legislation to make it so will be ready in 2017.

​"The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) urges the Government of Manitoba to proceed with a public model administered and operated by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries," the MGEU introduction to the Probe study states.

"The risks to public health associated with easier access to non-medical marijuana are too great to leave the sale and distribution to the profit-driven private sector, and Manitobans agree."

The province-wide Omnibus survey was designed and conducted by Probe Research via telephone interviews between Nov. 29 and Dec. 11 among a random sampling of 1,000 adults.

One can say with 95 per cent certainty that the results are within plus or minus 3.1 per cent of what they would have been if the entire adult population was polled, Probe says.

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky says legal marijuana should be sold in government-run stores. (CBC)

'Common sense' approach, president says

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries already has staff training and policies in place dealing with the sale of controlled substances, said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the MGEU.

"Keeping it under the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries just makes sense to us, and it's the best use of a resource that they already have," Gawronsky said Wednesday.

"If we're going to end up with a controlled substance that needs to be regulated by government, and there needs to be control on it by government, the best way to have it is to run through government stores — stand-alone stores, not attached to liquor stores."

The province has said it will wait for Ottawa to legalize marijuana before it decides how it should be sold here.

Gawronsky said marijuana could be regulated and controlled like alcohol and sold by the province to keep the revenue in provincial coffers and offset the initial costs of building and staffing stores.

"I think in the long run, the revenue that will be generated off of it once that up-front cost is paid for is definitely going to be worth it for services for Manitobans," she said.

"To me, this is just a common-sense way that you take a look at it."