Premier Brian Pallister says the federal government has to be careful with the health and safety of Canadians when it comes to legalizing pot, and he wants Ottawa to slow down.
Pallister describes legalization as one of the most complicated policy issues facing governments, listing a series of concerns he has about the coming changes.
"This is a challenge every province is going to face," Pallister said. He cited rules around access, quality oversight and distribution, age of access and driving under the influence of marijuana as some of the challenges facing legislators.
Pallister said everything from regulations on edible marijuana products to streamlining rules between jurisdictions is on the table.
A report by former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan has been completed, though its results have not yet been made public. Pallister said he hopes it will answer some of his concerns.
The Manitoba premier said he agrees with Ottawa that something must be done to wrest the cultivation and sale of marijuana from organized crime and see it delivered safely to consumers. But he said because legalization has so many implications, it has to be done with thought and planning.
"It's got a myriad number of components to it, and rushing ahead with it and then figuring it out based on the mistakes you made is hardly the right approach to take," Pallister said.
'Acting in relative uncertainty'
Pallister has no problem delaying federal regulations on legalized weed until all the issues are solved, and says people who want to smoke pot are already smoking it.
"Pot is available to people who want it now," Pallister said, noting the statistics he's seen from U.S. states where marijuana is legal show little increase in consumption when it's no longer a crime to smoke.
The premier confirmed Manitoba is moving forward in some areas on legalization, including interdepartmental discussions and engaging some expert analysis. The previous NDP government had started a cautious look into how other jurisdictions were dealing with the sale of the marijuana.
Pallister said not knowing where Ottawa is on the issue has created a vacuum.
"We are acting in relative uncertainty and relative isolation on this point," he said.
He is urging the federal government to partner with the provinces and territories on the development of these issues.
But Pallister, who's been sharpening his rhetoric with the federal Liberal government recently, said he hasn't seen a spirit of teamwork coming from Ottawa lately. He points to growing friction with the federal government on health care transfer payments as an example where the two levels of government aren't on the same page.