Opposition parties call for debate on legalizing marijuana
Gallant government says it is 'irresponsible to speculate' on new rules until Ottawa gives more details
New Brunswick's four opposition political parties are calling for a public debate on legalizing marijuana as the federal government gets ready to change the rules surrounding the drug.
Green Party Leader David Coon, PC MLA Carl Urquhart, NDP Leader Dominic Cardy and People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin all agree regulations must be in place when Ottawa introduces new legislation and the public should be part of the discussions.
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"We should be having an open debate about this now, about what that looks like in New Brunswick for New Brunswickers and certainly from my perspective it needs to be driven overall from a public health perspective," Coon told Information Morning Fredericton.
Austin said for him, it's about making sure that when marijuana is legalized in Canada, that New Brunswick is prepared with regulations.
"I think it's a good move as long as it's done right," Austin said.
"The goal at the end of the day has got to be to keep it out of the hands of the children — the minors — and make sure the revenue that comes in goes to the right resources."
Cardy, who also supports the legalization of marijuana, said it is time for the province to figure out how it will minimize the risks and maximize the benefits.
"In Colorado, they put tens of millions of dollars from legalized marijuana into the education system — new books, bonuses for good teachers, things like that," Cardy said.
"We've got to look here how we're going to use the benefits that are going to come from legalization because it is coming."
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced in April that the government would introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in 2017.
The health minister told the United Nations at a special session last month the government's proposed marijuana policy challenges the status quo, but will enhance the safety of youth.
Government must have 'ducks in a row'
Coon is calling for a provincial government monopoly on the sale of marijuana, warning labels that list the risks of use and an age restriction of 19.
Urquhart said he doesn't personally support the legalization of marijuana and is calling for strong rules about how it will be controlled, including tests for drivers and a means for employers to test their employees.
"There's got to be … changes to be made in the mills and the construction areas where danger could be, where marijuana is going to be — how are they going to be able to have a right to check their employees for marijuana?" Urquhart said.
Austin said he wants the debate over how the provincial government will deal with marijuana to begin immediately.
"It needs to be discussed. It's coming and the government, of all people, should have their ducks in a row to make sure that it's done right," he said.
The Gallant Liberals have formed a working group to study the legalization of marijuana but refused to comment when contacted by CBC News.
In an email the director of communications for Premier Brian Gallant said there would be no comment on the idea of public debate.
The spokesperson said until the province receives more details from Ottawa "we feel it would be irresponsible to speculate."
With files from Information Morning Fredericton