Nova Scotia

Should pot be sold with liquor at the NSLC? The province wants your say

An online survey launched by the Nova Scotia government Friday suggests the plan is to have liquor stores sell pot when marijuana becomes legal next year.

Online survey asks for people's preferences for existing stores, new stand-alone operations or online sales

People will have until Oct. 27 to complete the online survey. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

The Nova Scotia government is asking Nova Scotians what they think of having the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation sell marijuana when cannabis becomes legal next July.

The online survey asks seven pot-related questions, two of them related to NSLC and the government using an existing Crown corporation — such as NSLC — to sell recreational cannabis.

Possible sales options

The government also suggests a number of possible sales options through NSLC:

  • Online ordering with home or store delivery.
  • New stand-alone stores.
  • Selling recreational cannabis in the same stores as alcohol.

As of 3 p.m., the survey had been filled out 5,150 times.

Speaking not long after the survey launched online, Justice Minister Mark Furey said having the NSLC or a Crown corporation handle pot sales made sense because they "have a structure in place that recognizes a level of public safety."

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation could become the place to buy marijuana once it is legalized. (CBC)

Other topics the survey is gathering feedback on include:

  • Whether the minimum age to purchase, possess or use marijuana should be 19.
  • Whether people who smoke or vape marijuana should abide by current non-smoking rules, as set out in the Smoke-free Places Act.
  • Whether the province needs to create additional legislation to penalize drug-impaired drivers.

Unrestricted access to survey

Although the response rate to the survey appeared to be strong on the first day, there is no way to know how many people have actually filled out the questionnaire.

That's because there is no cap on the number of times one person can respond. In an attempt to test the system, several people in the CBC Nova Scotia office were able to complete the survey multiple times.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the government didn't want to limit the ability for multiple people to use the same device to fill out the survey.

Avoiding cross-border battles 

Furey said restricting the sale, possession and use to people 19 years or older, rather than the 18-year-old minimum suggested by the federal government, was an attempt to align with age restrictions being contemplated in neighbouring provinces.

"The last thing that we want to do is create a cross border shopping circumstance with the province of New Brunswick," he said.

Opposition parties call for public meetings

Opposition leaders are not happy with the public consultation effort. PC Leader Jamie Baillie and NDP Leader Gary Burrill are both urging the McNeil government to hold public meetings on the issue.

"It is a major matter. People have lots to say about it. They deserve to be consulted fully," Burrill told reporters at Province House.

Baillie said this isn't a real public consultation.

"A couple of weeks with an online survey, Nova Scotians deserve a lot more than that on something as major a change in the social fabric of the province as this," he said.

Premier Stephen McNeil said he wasn't involved in the decisions surrounding the consultation process but he supported them.

As for whether the NSLC would be the distributor of choice in the province, he said that was still open to discussion.

"That decision has not been made," he told CBC News. "I've heard from other Nova Scotians who believe there's different ways we should be [making] the product available to our citizens and we'll listen to them as we go forward."

Printed copies of surveys available soon

The survey will remain online until Oct. 27. Printed copies can be picked up at Service Nova Scotia locations starting Oct. 12.

There are no questions related to the use of pot for medicinal purposes.

The province is paying $65,000 to MQO Research, the company hired to conduct the consultation. That fee includes the online survey and stakeholder sessions, which will be held later.

With files from Michael Gorman