Available in stores to 19 and up: N.L. government unveils rules for legal pot
Marijuana products to be sold in private retail stores, but regulated and distributed by NLC
The Newfoundland and Labrador government has released details of how marijuana legalization will work in the province.
The legislation will allow for the sale of marijuana in private stores, but it will be licensed and regulated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC).
There will be some cases where the NLC will sell marijuana products, where there are no alternatives in that area. Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore said there will also be an online option, where those in isolated communities could purchase pot online.
The legal age to buy and consume pot will be 19, and youth possession will be prohibited and will result in a fine rather than a criminal charge.
At Thursday's news conference, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said the NLC will set prices for marijuana, but that the details are still being worked out.
He cautioned against the idea that marijuana legalization will be an economic boon for the province, citing the expense of implementation.
"We don't think there's a tremendous amount of money in this for the provincial treasury, and there's certainly going to be spending priorities as well for public education and enforcement."
"Having said that, it will be much better that any money generated goes to government rather than the criminals."
The legislation also prohibits consumption in public, and people will only be able to toke up in their home or on private property.
Mixed reviews on NLC's role
NDP interim leader Lorraine Michael isn't a fan of private retailers selling the drug.
"[Government is] going to be working towards total privatization and I find that's problematic. Why not stay with the NLC?" she said, following Thursday's announcement.
Michael said she doesn't feel it's a big risk if it was only available via NLC stores — and that it could mean more money for the province.
"Once you get private, the profits are going to go in another direction. Whereas the more profits we can get for government, the more money we have to go into services for our people, into healthcare and into education," she said.
But Thomas Clarke, a self-described cannabis advocate, is happy with the role of the NLC, for the most part.
"As long as they go at it from a distribution and a regulatory perspective, I think that's the best way for the province and small business owners are going to be able to thrive as long as they dot their i's and cross their t's in a timely fashion," he said.
No edible products — yet
Unlike alcohol, businesses won't be able to serve pot, at least not until the federal government tackles rules around edible marijuana products.
"As cannabis is an intoxicating substance its consumption should be regulated, as we already do with alcohol," Parsons said at the news conference.
Government says it is committed to developing an industry around production and sale of marijuana, and is working with local companies on those efforts.
An education campaign is also being developed to be rolled out in conjunction with legalization.
Parsons said when it comes to stopping people from driving while high, the details are still being worked out.
"Impaired driving has no place on our roads," Parsons said. "We are working with the federal government and are pressing them for more resources so that the RNC and RCMP have the tools and training they require to enforce the law."
Liquor act amendments
To get things rolling on legalization, the first move will be to amend the Liquor Corporation Act, which will give the Crown corporation the ability to buy, import and sell cannabis, control its sale and delivery, issue licences and determine prices, and — in some cases — sell pot. Those amendments will be introduced Thursday at the House of Assembly.
After the amendments have been made, government will issue a request for proposals from private retailers who want into the pot business.
Once the first aspects of legalization are implemented, more legislation will be introduced into the House of Assembly in spring 2018.
With files from Peter Cowan