Nova Scotia·Q&A

Former premier Darrell Dexter now a lobbyist for marijuana industry

CBC News asked Darrell Dexter why he's taken on this role, what the age limit to buy marijuana should be and whether he's a recreational marijuana user.

Former N.S. premier helping cannabis industry clients as vice-chair of government-relations firm

Former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter says his interest in the cannabis industry comes "from a purely professional perspective." (Canadian Press)

Darrell Dexter's newest interest is marijuana. 

The former NDP premier of Nova Scotia is a vice-chair at Global Public Affairs, the country's largest privately held government relations firm. Dexter will be leading the firm's cannabis industry clients as marijuana legislation and regulations are rolled out.

He spoke by phone from Calgary with the CBC's Elizabeth Chiu. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why are you interested in lobbying for the marijuana industry?

A: You might know that a recent Deloitte report on this industry says that it will, in all likelihood, reach something in the order of a $22-billion industry, in fact eclipsing the combined sales of beer, wine and spirits.

This is a significant emerging industry that is attracting a lot of investment and one where there is a complex regulatory environment that we think people are going to need some help with.

Q: It's still controversial. As a former premier, did you hesitate at all?

A: The decision's been made and the reality is that, in the spring, legislation by the federal government is going to be brought in. And my particular proficiencies happen to be around public policy, government decision-making.

And so for our firm, and for the people, many average ordinary Canadians who are investing their money in many of these companies, I think it's important that you have a firm that's able to provide the kind of professional advice that's going to be needed over the coming years.

Q: The pot task force has recommended setting an age limit to purchase marijuana at 18. The medical community says it should be 21. What do you think the age limit should be?

A: That's not going to be our end of the business, at least at this point. What we're out to do is to make service offerings to the companies who are coming into this, into the industry.

What we'll be looking to do is to focus on the kind of regulation that is going to impact the ability of the industry to respond to what the government wants to do.

Q: There have been recalls of medical marijuana affecting 25,000 patients across the country. Do you think the government-approved producers let Canadians down?

A: That's not for me to judge. But what I would say is this kind of underlines the point about being in a position to be able to provide kind of solid advice on issues like this. Because one of the things that people are obviously going to be very interested in is kind of how the standards are set for what is going to be a consumer product.

People are going to want to make sure that the regulations are effective and that the supply is safe.

Q: On the topic of medical marijuana, fellow Nova Scotia NDPer Peter Stoffer has said 10 grams a day is too much. What do you think?

A: Well, I'm not a doctor. I leave those issues … to medical professionals.

Peter, of course, has been a great advocate on behalf of veterans for many years. I'm sure that he's come to his conclusions based on his experience. I have nothing but respect for him but again I leave those questions to medical professionals.

Q: What's your personal experience with marijuana?

A: From an investment perspective, I don't really have any experience with it.

I saw my colleague Tom Clark saying that the people that are in nursing homes today, many of them were at Woodstock.

For me, like most people when we were young, we were experimenting at the time. 

Q: Do you still consume marijuana recreationally?

A: No, I do not. That's my own personal choice. My interest in this industry comes from a purely professional perspective.