New Brunswick

Recreational marijuana could be sold in private sector later on, minister says

The province might be relying on NB Liquor to sell recreational marijuana initially, but it hasn't ruled out selling in the private sector later on, Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says.

Legal age for marijuana use is expected to be announced soon

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says it's important the province 'start tight' in the marijuana business so it can combat the illegal pot trade. (CBC)

The province might be relying on NB Liquor to sell recreational marijuana initially, but it hasn't ruled out selling in the private sector later on, Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says.

"Down the road after we get some experience, we'll learn from the experience and we may look at other ways," Rogers said Thursday.

In the meantime, the province announced on Wednesday that NB Liquor will set up a stand-alone stores before the legalization of recreational marijuana in July 2018.

Up to 20 stores will be established in 15 communities across the province, with strict policies in place.

Stores must be located at least 300 metres away from schools, they will only display products under glass, and customers will need to show identification to prove they are of legal age before they can even get inside the building.

The use of recreational marijuana will be legal in July 2018. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner/Associated Press)

"We didn't start out letting the private sector sell alcohol," Rogers said. "It's new territory and it's very important … that we start tight to combat the illegal market," she said.

For now, the latest retail model will allow the province to be ready by next July, when marijuana becomes legal.

"We've said from day one that we'll have a retail model that we'll start with and this now has been announced, it's ANBL," she said.

"It's separate stores from their current alcohol stores for a number of very good reasons."

There's no decision yet on what the price will be, what the stores will be called, or what the legal age will be.

Brian Harriman, president and CEO of NB Liquor, took part in the province's announcement that the Crown corporation will sell marijuana through a subsidiary. (Catherine Harrop/CBC News)

However, Rogers did tell Information Morning Fredericton that there have been discussions surrounding the legal age for marijuana use and what the age will be. She said the legal age is expected to be announced soon.

She also said costs to start up a marijuana retailing operation, will be "next to nothing" and the implementation of these stores are within the province's current budget.

"We have nothing extra this year," she said.

Next year, the province's main focus will be on supply, a good distribution model and corporate and social responsibility, she said.

And eventually, the province hopes to see some revenue from selling the product.

Wants to keep customers in province

Meanwhile, the province is still waiting to hear from the federal government about a tax regime and expects to see some profit from recreational marijuana down the road.

A small number of stores will be spread out across the province in areas based on income traffic and population. Residents will also be able to purchase recreational marijuana online.

But Rogers said the province is still trying to sort out ways it can keep consumers buying recreational marijuana in New Brunswick and avoid buying from other provinces.

The province has signed agreements with two cannabis producers, Organigram and Canopy Growth, to be suppliers. 

"Those who do decide to consume will have the benefit of knowing their product," she said.

Jacques Poitras, Information Morning Fredericton

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