P.E.I. cannabis stores will be similar to ones in N.S., says finance minister
'We have to discuss it openly'
P.E.I.'s finance minister says preparations are underway for the legalization and retail of cannabis, and the Island will be ready when recreational pot is legalized on Oct. 17.
Prime Minister Trudeau made the announcement Wednesday, acknowledging the date was several months later than originally planned.
"The lead time and the delays certainly helped us be even more prepared. I think we're in really good shape," MacDonald told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin Thursday.
The architecture, designs and security for P.E.I.'s four retail stores are ready and look similar to those in Nova Scotia, MacDonald said.
"The stores do look really nice."
'Overwhelmed' with 1,500 applications
The process of interviewing and hiring cannabis shop workers is underway — about 1,500 people applied, MacDonald said.
"We were obviously overwhelmed with the number of applicants," MacDonald said.
About 30 applicants were interviewed in the past week for managerial and senior roles and MacDonald said they will begin interviewing for retail clerks in the next week to 10 days.
Those hired will undergo four to six weeks of training — P.E.I. is looking to collaborate on that with New Brunswick, "to cut costs and make it more consistent from province to province," MacDonald said.
Four plants allowed at home
The Island was not alone in waiting for the final bill to avoid having to make changes later, he said.
"I think everybody was playing the waiting game ... and making sure we move forward appropriately."
P.E.I. will follow Ottawa's lead and allowing Islanders to grow four plants at home — although MacDonald said he doesn't agree with that, at least in the beginning.
"Personally I'm not in favour of that, but I'm only the minister. But legally, we were advised there will be a constitutional challenge on this."
The province will monitor Quebec, Nunavut and Manitoba, provinces that have chosen not to allow home growing.
Kids 'using it anyway'
Educating youth about cannabis youth should be a significant part of this, MacDonald said.
"They're using it anyway. Thirty-three per cent of Islanders between Grade 7 and Grade 12 have used it. It's no secret," MacDonald said.
"I think the stigma or the hiding of it or non-discussion, I think it has to stop and we have to discuss it openly."
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With files from Louise Martin