Nfld. & Labrador

Pot plan for N.L. contemplates selling through private stores: sources

Legal age of 19 and no toking in public are expected to be included in the plan, CBC News has learned.

Provincial liquor corporation could play role through licensing and regulation

The province is looking at selling marijuana through private stores, which could be licensed by the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation. (Shutterstock)

Newfoundland and Labrador is looking at selling marijuana in private stores, sources tell CBC News.

An official announcement on how the province will handle legalized marijuana is expected as early as next week.

Multiple sources say discussions have focused around having the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) licence and regulate private stores who will sell the product.

That would mean NLC wouldn't have to take on the cost and risk of renting space and hiring staff.

A federal task force recommended against selling marijuana at the same location where liquor is sold, which would prevent NLC from simply using existing staff and locations to sell pot.

CBC News has learned the liquor corporation may be involved in distributing the product from pot suppliers, allowing it to pocket part of the profit.

Exact plans are still being finalized and sources say changes may be made by cabinet before a public launch.

Manitoba and Alberta have chosen similar models where the provinces distribute marijuana and private businesses sell it.

Ontario and New Brunswick have opted to run the stores themselves.

All provinces are bringing in rules in advance of the July 1, 2018 date set by the federal government to make marijuana legal.

No toking in public

Smoking up in public will not be allowed in Newfoundland and Labrador, similar to rules around alcohol consumption.

Because it's intoxicating, sources say the only place you'll be able to smoke pot is in your home or on your private property.

Quebec recently announced it will allow people to smoke pot in public, wherever tobacco is permitted.

Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to ban smoking pot in public as part of its new rules (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The province will also announce that the age to buy and smoke pot will be 19, the same age as for alcohol, sources say.

That age was favoured by the majority of respondents during consultations, and follows most other provinces who have tied the age to smoke marijuana to the legal age for alcohol.

Unlike alcohol, businesses won't be able to serve pot, at least not until the federal government tackles rules around edible marijuana products.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has publicly downplayed the revenue it could get from taxing and distributing pot, saying it's focusing on issues of health, safety and addictions.

But analysis done in advance of the launch shows the province could eventually pocket between $20 million and $40 million a year.

Sources stress in the short term the costs of startup will eat into that profit.

That revenue is far less than the $138 million the province gets from lottery revenue or the $180 million the liquor corporation hands over every year.


Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.