Saskatoon·Special Report

Saskatoon Meewasin byelection: candidates on regulating legalized marijuana

Ahead of the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection, CBC Saskatoon checked in with all 5 candidates to get their thoughts on the biggest, political issues Sask. faces.

Wondering who to vote for? Here's what Saskatoon Meewasin candidates think about Saskatchewan's biggest issues

Running in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection are (clockwise from top left): Brent Penner, Ryan Meili, Darrin Lamoureux, Shawn Setyo and David Prokopchuk. (CBC News)

Voters will cast ballots in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection on March 2.  

To help prepare, CBC Saskatoon is publishing responses from the five candidates running on a different issue every day this week.

From revenue sharing to carbon pricing, we'll find out where the candidates stand on important issues facing Saskatchewan people.

Today, the candidates respond to a question about legalizing marijuana. 

Legalizing marijuana

The Canadian government has promised to table legislation legalizing cannabis by the summer of 2017. (CBC)

Question: The federal government is set to legalize and regulate marijuana. How should Saskatchewan regulate marijuana sales once the federal legislation is passed?

Candidate responses

Brent Penner, Saskatchewan Party:

Brent Penner is running for the Saskatchewan Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (Brent Penner/Facebook)

As a former police officer, my biggest concern with the legalization and regulation of marijuana is the possibility of an increase in the number of people driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol on our roads. Saskatchewan already has one of the highest rates of impaired driving in the country and anything that could possibly add to that statistic in a negative way needs to be implemented with caution.

The federal government has yet to outline their plan for the legalization of marijuana. There are many questions that still need answers, such as who will be allowed to buy and sell, where it will be sold and who will keep the tax revenues? It is my understanding that the federal government is expected to introduce legislation to address these questions in the coming months. Until then, my focus and the government's focus is on ensuring that the health and safety impacts of legalized marijuana are addressed before we make decisions around the distribution and regulation of marijuana.

Shawn Setyo, Saskatchewan Green Party:

Shawn Setyo is running for the Saskatchewan Green Party in the Saskatoon Meewasion byelection. (Shawn Setyo/Facebook)

The federal legalization of cannabis gives the provinces a once-in-a-generation opportunity that we shouldn't miss. 

Saskatchewan, with its many hours of sunshine and fertile soil, is poised to take advantage of legalization by expanding our existing hemp cannabis industry to include medical and recreational cannabis.  A number of other things have to be done right to seize this opportunity most effectively.

We shouldn't do what was done in the post-alcohol prohibition era by replacing the federal criminal prohibition with our own provincial prohibition or onerous regulations.  That will just waste money on enforcement and put us behind the rest of the country. Recreational cannabis should be taxed just right. The tax rate should be low enough at first to ensure that people who operate outside the legal regime are squeezed out of the market by legal products. Over time, the taxes can be raised, but not too soon and not too quickly or it will create an opportunity for the black market.

Regulations should ensure that small-scale cultivation is protected. All of the legal states in the U.S. have allowed private and small business to get involved and it has resulted in a boom for their economy.

On the medical side, the province must support the court-affirmed constitutional right of patients to reasonably access medical cannabis. With provinces being the primary providers of healthcare, Saskatchewan should also explore where medical cannabis can be used to make care more effective and less expensive.  Many users are able to cut or eliminate their use of other prescription drugs which can be expensive and carry harmful side effects.  Disabled users can sometimes get back to work. We should explore where cannabis [can] be used in this way to cost-effectively enhance the care and the lives of the Saskatchewan people.

David Prokopchuk, Progressive Conservative Party:

David Prokopchuk is running for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (David Prokopchuk/Facebook)

Before this conversation can even start, the federal government needs to first establish what the age of majority is across Canada when it's legalized. They also need to take steps to establish at what level of possession decriminalization takes place. The federal government needs to establish the THC level limits in the legalized product before asking provinces to put in place the proper regulation of the distribution mechanisms, similar to alcohol. Our fear is that if these steps are not taken, what will happen is the current illegal marketing structure will continue to flourish and may encourage its diversification into more harmful narcotics like meth or fentanyl. Finally, the public's safety concerns must be satisfied with respect to being able to quantify an individual's level of impairment before any sales can take place.

Darrin Lamoureux, Saskatchewan Liberal Party: 

Darrin Lamoureux is running for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection. (Darrin Lamoureux/Facebook)

We will work within whatever framework and rules are put forward by the federal government and will welcome the new stream of tax revenue.  Where the provincial government needs to focus is ensuring that necessary regulations and awareness programs are in place to keep impaired drivers off the road and ensuring that our law enforcement has the means to test for and enforce impaired driving laws for those under the influence of marijuana.

Ryan Meili, New Democratic Party: 

Ryan Meili, the Saskatoon Meewasin MLA, was chosen as the new leader for the Saskatchewan NDP on Saturday. (Ryan Meili/Facebook)

If marijuana is legalized, it will be up to the provincial government to establish appropriate rules around acceptable age for purchase, regulations around driving while under the influence, and mental health and addictions support for people who are not able to consume it in a safe and moderate fashion.

The experience from several states across the U.S. shows that legalization can be an important source of revenue. We would also want to ensure that in exchange for Saskatchewan shouldering the regulatory burden and any associated support services, we will be receiving a fair share of those funds.

This is the third of a five-part series by CBC Saskatoon ahead of the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection on March 2. Each day CBC Saskatoon will publish one answer from each of the five candidates to a question regarding a pressing Saskatchewan issue.