Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says she welcomes a report to the federal government on legalizing marijuana, but that doesn't mean the Progressive Conservative government has an opinion on it yet.
A task force has made 80 recommendations to the Liberal government on how to go forward with the legalization of pot, including suggestions about who can consume it, where it can be purchased and how it's packaged.
In a hastily put together news conference, Stefanson admitted the province was just starting to review the recommendations and is looking to Ottawa to be more specific about its plans for legislation.
"We need to focus on ensuring there is direction. The next stage on this is from the federal government. We need to get some clarity on that," Stefanson said.
Stefanson said there are many issues that are unresolved, from potency to packaging and where pot might be sold, and she is hoping the federal government doesn't rush it.
Manitoba to Ottawa on pot: Slow down
"We are hoping that they don't move forward too quickly in terms of introducing legislation on this until we get clarity on certain matters, especially when it comes to things like impaired driving and so on," Stefanson said.
That position is what Premier Brian Pallister has spoken about publicly in recent weeks.
The province has established an internal task force made up of several government departments, including Health, Justice, Agriculture and Crown Services, as well as Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Stefanson said. The government will look closely at both the federal recommendations and what's been learned by officials and stakeholders in Manitoba, she said.
"We are going to get this right. This is a very important issue facing Manitobans and indeed Canadians, so we are going to review those recommendations. We will establish a distribution mechanism here. We will work with a task force internally here, and we will work with stakeholders across the province."
Medical marijuana supplier to government: speed up
Mathew Monasterski, who co-owns the Weeds, Glass and Gifts store in the Exchange District, was surprised and pleased by the recommendations made to the federal government and hopes the legislation is passed quickly.
"Pretty actually excited because I wasn't expecting the report to come out the way it did. I was expecting a lot of restriction. I was expecting a lot of recommendations to restrict things to corporations and keep it out of entrepreneurs' hands," Monasterski said.
Monasterski's store provides customers with medical marijuana through its distribution centre in Vancouver. The product is mailed directly to clients
As soon as marijuana is legalized, Monasterski wants his outlet to sell it to recreational users.
His company absolutely will not sell to children, he said.
"We will not allow minors in our establishments and we will never sell to a minor. We go through a rigorous identification process to make sure they are who they are and to make sure they are of age to consume," Monasterski said.
There is some urgency to get the legislation on the books, he said.
"Every day and every minute, there is another Canadian citizen arrested for cannabis possession, cannabis use or cannabis sale, and it just needs to stop. Cannabis is nothing that needs to be a crime that should be ruining our Canadian citizens' lives," Monasterski said.
Officials in the previous NDP government leaned toward selling marijuana using staff trained to recognize intoxicated people, prohibit underage use and inform customers of the risks.
Stefanson could not be specific on the provincial government's position on whether it would restrict the sale of marijuana near schools or whether legalized pot should be sold in generic packaging.
The most important goals for the province are to protect children and youth from exposure to the product, minimize harm to users and keep impaired drivers off the roads, she said.
Manitoba also needs to work with the other provinces to get the rules harmonized as much as possible, Stefanson said.
Government position on marijuana
Government position on marijuana (PDF KB)
Government position on marijuana (Text KB)