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Explaining the rules for cannabis, one week from legalization

In just a week, a whole suite of new laws and regulations will govern nearly every aspect of marijuana policy.

On Oct. 17, there’s a brand new rulebook for marijuana. Here’s what you need to know

Sean Ryan, vice-president of regulatory services and social responsibility with the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corperation says pot shops that opened before legalization can be shut down. (CBC)

The headline is simple: marijuana will be legal in Canada, beginning Oct. 17. But the details are a little more complicated.

A whole suite of new laws and regulations will govern nearly every aspect of marijuana policy: where you can buy it, how much it costs, who can order it online, and where you can store it in your car.

Sean Ryan, vice-president of regulatory services and social responsibility with the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation, says the province is on track for opening day.

"We're satisfied that about approximately 70 per cent of the population will be serviced with a bricks-and-mortar store within about 50 kilometres of their location," Ryan said, with more than 20 retail locations to open next week in addition to online service.

Ryan also believes the province can handle demand, given the government's contract with Canopy Growth guarantees supply, though he acknowledged the national supply concerns.

"We will for sure see challenges with maintaining supply to meet the demand, but the industry is getting ready for that and they're preparing for that as best that they can."

That said, there's still work to do ahead of legalization, Ryan said.

There will be a limit of 30 grams sold per-transaction at cannabis stores. (CBC)

"It's very much a work in progress, and I'm not so naive to think that there aren't more challenges ahead," he told CBC Radio's On The Go

"We've had the benefit of learning from our friends south of the border, and in talking to them my issues were, it's great to hear about your successes, but I want to hear more about your failures."

Having access to that information is a huge benefit, he said, one U.S. jurisdictions that legalized recreational marijuana ahead of Canada didn't have. 

Ryan provided more information Wednesday, one week out from legalization, about how Newfoundland and Labrador plans to use that information to avoid mistakes, and what legal cannabis will look like in this province.

What will it cost?

Consumers can expect three basic tiers of cannabis available for purchase, according to Ryan, who compared the product to wine in terms of quality and classification.

"We'll have our economy, and we'll have midstream, and we'll have premium," he said. Prices across those tiers will range from $6 to $13 a gram.

"It's a broad spectrum."

Marijuana will be legal beginning October 17th. The details are a little more complicated. 2:23

The NLC's online market will reflect those prices as well, being that prices are fixed across the board.

However, product types may initially be limited, he said, though over time they will be comparable to other legalized shops and markets.

What can I have at home?

As of Oct. 17, people of legal age can carry 30 grams of product on them at one time, and can legally purchase up to that amount at once.

Four plants is the limit you can grow per household, and yields from those plants will vary based on several factors. 

However, there is no limit to the amount of cannabis you can have in your home, Ryan said.

What about existing dispensaries?

The Cannabis Control Act gives the NLC the authority to close down cannabis stores or dispensaries currently operating outside the law, and the agency fully intends to do just that, Ryan said.

"My advice to those that are operating right now is to be forewarned, that come Oct. 17 we will then have the authority and the power to do so, and we have full intentions of doing so," he said.

"Our goal in this entire project is to ensure that there's safe and controlled access to cannabis right across the province."

In practice, those operations will unfold more like liquor inspections than law enforcement, but the NLC is still working with the police on enforcement.

Some regulations are still awaiting finalization. For example, hours of operation for cannabis retailers have not yet been finalized, Ryan said.

"We're working diligently, continuously on the regulations and we hope to have that done very very soon."

For more info, check out www.gov.nl.ca/cannabis.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador