Sask. might need larger police force for legalized marijuana: finance minister

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says more police may be needed once marijuana is legalized.

75-25 split with feds for pot revenue will help with costs of policing, regulation

The projected yearly revenue for legal pot is about $400 million a year. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Saskatchewan is bracing itself for the costs of legalized marijuana — something that will be eased by the recent announcement that provinces will keep 75 per cent of revenues from the drug.

Initially, the federal government had proposed a 50-50 split with, but the provinces said no, as they would have to bear the brunt of upfront and ongoing costs. The deal is two years in length, with the potential for adjustment if costs are not as high as expected for provinces.

"The upfront costs, of course — the initial and most obvious — is the regulatory regime," said provincial Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, referring to the actual regulation of the drug.

"The other initial, upfront cost that I think is going to come quite quickly is on the policing side. ... We may, in all good likelihood, need a larger police force in order to police this."

We have to under-price the black market price.- Donna Harpauer, Saskatchewan finance minister

The federal government introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in Canada earlier this year. It's expected that pot will be legal by July 2018.

While the federal government handles the legality of the drug, it will be up to the provinces to handle the details surrounding its regulation and distribution.

The legal age to purchase pot is a decision that may have to wait until the Saskatchewan Party chooses a new premier in the new year, Harpauer said. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The province has expressed a lack of interest in selling weed itself, preferring to regulate the drug instead.

Another issue will be the legal age to purchase pot, something which may have to wait until the Saskatchewan Party chooses a new premier in the new year, Harpauer said.

While prices vary, black market pot is usually priced around $10 a gram. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said pricing will be competitive, around $10 per gram as well. 

"Ultimately, if we are going to drive out the black market, we have to under-price the black market price," Harpauer said. 

The revenue going to the federal government would be capped at $100 million per year, according to Harpauer. Anything over that would go to provinces and territories, she said.

It is projected that pot will bring in $400 million in revenue annually.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition