Marijuana legalization working group struck by New Brunswick government
Public Safety Minister Stephen Horsman thinks legal age for consumption should be set at 21
The New Brunswick government has launched a working group to look at how to prepare for the federal legalization of marijuana.
The Trudeau government in Ottawa has promised to legalize the drug, but regulating it will likely fall within the jurisdiction of provincial governments.
The working group includes officials from the departments of Public Safety, Health, Justice, and Social Development.
"There are pros and cons, and we're going to take a look at everything," Horsman said.
NB Liquor is also involved, with CEO Brian Harriman recently chairing a meeting of provincial liquor commissions to study whether marijuana should be sold in liquor stores.
Horsman has met with officials in Colorado, where voters decriminalized marijuana in a plebiscite in 2012, including Governor John Hickenlooper.
He said he was struck by the tax revenue the state has been able to collect from marijuana sales — money he says has been directed to specific education, health, and infrastructure programs.
'We have to have open minds'
Horsman, a retired Fredericton city police officer, said he would keep his personal views on legalization to himself. "We have to have open minds," he said.
But he let some of his opinions slip out when reporters asked him if he had ever tried marijuana. "I've never been around it, never partaken of it," he said. "It just wasn't my thing."
I don't like to be around it and I don't like anything about it.- Stephen Horsman, Public Safety minister
And he said that will not change when it's legalized. "I will not. I don't like to be around it and I don't like anything about it."
Horsman also said it's his personal opinion, if Ottawa leaves it up to the provinces to set a minimum legal age for marijuana consumption, that it be set at 21.
He said safety will be paramount whenever it becomes legal, and the province is looking at new testing systems, including swabs, that determine if someone has driven a car after consuming the drug.
Subsidies to OrganiGram, Civilized challenged
In Question Period Thursday, Opposition Progressive Conservative MLA Kirk MacDonald questioned the Gallant government's decision to subsidize two marijuana-related businesses.
The Liberals announced up to $990,000 in payroll rebates this week for OrganiGram, a Moncton-based medicinal marijuana company.
And the PCs revealed that Opportunities New Brunswick gave a $206,700 grant to Civilized, a Saint John-based online magazine about marijuana.
MacDonald wouldn't say whether he believes the province should refuse to subsidize marijuana-related businesses.
"We need to discuss that more as a legislature, to decide what kind of businesses we want to support with the taxpayers' money," he said.
Green Party Leader David Coon says he's against business subsidies in general, and contends the province should be doing its consultations on legalization in public.
"There's not a better way to do that than to have a select committee of MLAs hold hearings and report back to this house," he said.