New Brunswick

Hold off on selling Cannabis NB, say Grits, Greens

Two out of three opposition parties with seats in the New Brunswick legislature say they want the province to hold off on selling Cannabis NB.

After some early challenges, Crown corporation now making profits

In 2019, the province asked for offers to buy the Crown corporation tasked with selling cannabis in the province. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC file photo)

Two out of three opposition parties with seats in the New Brunswick legislature say they want the province to hold off on selling Cannabis NB.

In 2019 the province asked for offers to buy the Crown corporation tasked with selling cannabis in the province.

This came after the corporation sustained losses over multiple quarters.

But Cannabis NB has rebounded in the past year, earning $8.3 million in net profit so far this fiscal year.

In this week's political panel, Liberal MLA Rob McKee said the increased revenue isn't the only reason the province should hold off on selling the Crown corporation.

"There are shut down costs that will happen with the winding down of Cannabis NB," said McKee. 

"We believe that it should continue with government running the sale and distribution of cannabis."

Green MLA Kevin Arseneau said the Crown corporation should not be sold. (Radio-Canada)

Green MLA Kevin Arseneau agreed with McKee that the Crown corporation should not be sold.

"I think there's also public health reasons with the reinvesting some of the profits into public health measures and campaigns," said Arseneau. 

"There's also the fact that these are unionized jobs. So good paying jobs in different communities is always a great thing."

Not all the opposition parties are in agreement though.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin says the province should never have been in the cannabis business in the first place.

"[It] boggles my mind that government has any business in retail, especially when you talk about marijuana and alcohol," said Austin. 

"I think government has a role to play in regulating it, ensuring that there's fair taxation on the sold product. But as far as retailing it, I mean, it's just absurd that government has gotten to this point where it's involved in any type of retail of any sort"

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin says the province should never have been in the cannabis business in the first place. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

While Austin agrees with the Progressive Conservative's push to get the government out of the weed business, he doesn't agree with going from a public monopoly to a private one.

"I don't see that having any effect on the black market," said Austin.

"I just think it should be open to people that want to start a business and go with it as long as, again, its properly regulated fair taxation"

Liberal MLA Rob McKee said he believes the government’s move to sell Cannabis NB is ideological. (CBC)

McKee said he believes the government's move to sell Cannabis NB is ideological, given the corporation was started under a Liberal government and Premier Blaine Higgs had criticized the idea before he came into office

"His stubbornness probably means that they will continue down the road of selling off the rights to selling cannabis," said McKee.

No one from government was made available for the political panel because negotiations are underway, a spokesperson said.

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