New Brunswick

Liberals stand behind cannabis preparations as deadline questioned

The Brian Gallant Liberals are pushing ahead with their pot plans, while other political parties wonder how the province can be ready for the legalization of cannabis by the deadline next July.

Parties talk marijuana on this week's political panel for Information Morning Fredericton

“Until we are told about any delay, we have to work to be ready,” said Finance Minister Kathy Rogers. (CBC News)

The Brian Gallant Liberals are pushing ahead with their pot plans, while other political parties question whether the province can be ready for the legalization of cannabis by the deadline next July.

Liberal statements of renewed commitment came during this week's CBC political panel for Information Morning Fredericton, less than a week after the government announced a new Crown corporation to oversee marijuana sales.

"Until we are told about any delay, we have to work to be ready," said panellist Cathy Rogers, the finance minister.

Gagetown-Petitcodiac MLA Ross Wetmore said he doesn't believe there is enough time to legalize cannabis properly and wants the government to listen to police, who have expressed concern about such things as their initial costs, enforcement-related training, and the issue of marijuana-impaired drivers.

The government should decriminalize the drug, however, when the legislature begins sitting, Wetmore said.

"If we decriminalize marijuana, that will help take it out of the court system," he said.

The panel assembles to discuss marijuana legalization in the province. The Gallant government is pushing ahead toward next July's deadline but opposition voices wonder whether New Brunswick will be ready. 48:15

Green Party Leader David Coon said he didn't know whether legalization should be delayed, but he believes at the moment the province isn't ready for it.

Coon said there should be a greater focus on public education.

"Our Department of Health hasn't done anything yet," Coon said.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin agreed cannabis can't be properly legalized in the current time-frame, but he worried that delays would leave some people in a legal limbo.

"You don't want to continue to prosecute people knowing the law is going to change in the near future," Austin said.

Rogers pointed out that it wasn't the Liberal government's decision to legalize marijuana. The decision and the target of July 2018 were the federal government's.

She also said it's important to have the infrastructure in place for legal weed and a sufficient supply available.

"If [we don't,] then users will continue to buy from criminals, products will not be safe," Rogers said.

Won't release agreements

She said the government's goal was to be transparent with New Brunswickers about how the drug will be sold.

She would not commit, however, to releasing the memorandum of understandings between the province and the two companies contracted to supply the drug to New Brunswick, Organigram and Canopy Growth.

Rogers said earlier that the new Crown corporation won't run retail marijuana operations but will work with another "entity or entities." She hasn't elaborated.

Other decisions, such as a minimum age for possessing and using marijuana, have not been made.