Nova Scotia

What Nova Scotia's political leaders are saying about regulating marijuana

With a little more than a year to go before the federal deadline to legalize marijuana, the incoming provincial government will have to work quickly to implement new provincial pot laws.

July 1, 2018 is the federal deadline to legalize marijuana

The Canadian government says marijuana will become legal on July 1, 2018. (CBC)

With a little more than a year to go before the federal deadline to legalize marijuana, the incoming provincial government will have to work quickly to implement new provincial pot laws. 

None of the three party leaders has a definite plan on how they want to regulate the drug, but say they will be working on the issue in time for July 1, 2018.

Legalization was a key campaign promise by the Trudeau Liberals in 2015, but Ottawa has given discretion to the provinces over issues such the price of the drug, and how it is distributed and sold. The federal minimum age to buy marijuana will be 18 but provinces are permitted to set an older age limit. 

McNeil: 'Uniform approach' needed

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said his justice minister has already consulted with other justice ministers across the country, and he has personally consulted with the other Atlantic premiers. 

"We're looking to have a uniform approach," he said. "That hasn't been landed on at this point. But we continue to make sure that we put together an Atlantic Canada model."

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil wants to see the Atlantic provinces adopt a uniform approach to marijuana regulation. (CBC)

McNeil said he thinks the minimum age to purchase should be similar across the country to avoid cross-border purchases. The age of 19, the minimum age for alcohol purchases in Nova Scotia, would make sense, he said.

McNeil did not say whether the NSLC could be looked at as a distributor, but said the pricing would have to be competitive enough to entice people to buy a legal product. He added from a taxation point of view, he does not believe marijuana will return large profits. 

"This isn't the huge opportunity that people may think it is," he said. 

Burrill: 'There should be broad, broad consultation'

NDP leader Gary Burrill said a top priority for him was to keep marijuana distribution done through the public sector. 

"We think it's the NSLC that should be looked to for this distribution," he said. "That's not to say necessarily that marijuana should be sold through liquor stores — that's another question. But the NSLC has the experience and the expertise for dealing with this area."

New Democratic Party Leader Gary Burrill says the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. is a good role model for regulating marijuana sales. (CBC)

Burrill said he feels the legal age for purchasing marijuana should not be any lower than the legal drinking age, but that he is open to hearing from Nova Scotians about how they think the regulatory issues should be handled. 

"We think there should be broad, broad consultation across the province about this."

Baillie: 'I'm not in favour of legalizing'

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said although he will work to figure out how to implement marijuana laws, he disagrees with the move for health reasons. 

"I'm not in favour of legalizing, I want to make that clear. I felt decriminalizing it and treating it the same as a speeding ticket or a parking ticket was a better way to go," he said. 

Provincial PC leader Jamie Baillie favours setting an older age limit for buying and consuming marijuana but would prefer to see it not legalized at all. (CBC)

Baillie said he's concerned about the message legalization sends to young Nova Scotians. He also said doctors and scientists have raised concerns about marijuana having harmful effects on developing brains

"For me, the priorities are to protect young Nova Scotians, to set the age limit based on safety and science and to find some controlled way of dealing with the retailing that keeps young Nova Scotians safe," he said.

He believes the federal minimum age of 18 is "way too low. Whether it's 25 or somewhere in between, we need to go and do our homework and find out what exactly the right number is." 

Baillie said he doesn't yet have a stance on where and how marijuana should be sold. "I don't know today, to be honest, how we're going to deal with that." 

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