Pot legalization plan on agenda for Trudeau's meeting with premiers next week

While the prime minister and the premiers will focus largely on economic issues when they sit down next week, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Thursday they will also discuss the federal government's marijuana legislation.

Many provincial leaders worried about being ready in time for the Liberals' deadline to legalize cannabis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, will hear from some premiers about his government's plan to legalize marijuana when he meets with the premiers at next week's first ministers meeting. (Reuters)

While the prime minister and the premiers will focus largely on economic issues when they sit down next week, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Thursday that legalizing cannabis will also be discussed.

Sources tell CBC News a number of provinces were already planning on raising the issue during the final afternoon session of Tuesday's first ministers meeting.

But the PMO said while the schedule is still being finalized, marijuana legalization has been added to the afternoon discussion following roundtables on job creation, tax reform and an update on NAFTA talks.

Many provinces are nervous about the federal government's timeline of legalizing pot by next July.

One province told CBC News while all the provinces want implementation of the plan to be successful, they have many questions about how the prime minister plans to help them do that.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister wants the federal government to do more to get the message out on the dangers of driving while under the influence of pot.

"The federal government needs to educate and do its part to educate young drivers in particular, [about] the dangers of driving stoned. That's a life-and-death issue," Pallister told reporters Thursday.

For instance, one province wants a pan-Canadian age for legal consumption, rather than the federal law setting a minimum age of 18 and some provinces setting it higher. Ontario, for instance, plans to make marijuana legal for those 19 and older.

When the premiers met in Edmonton this summer, they put together a working group to look at a number of concerns, including road safety and enforcement mechanisms.

Police training and taxation

Since then, police agencies across the country have requested the federal government give them more time to get ready, both with using roadside testing equipment and to train their officers.

When he testified before the parliamentary health committee earlier this month, the deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police told MPs his force won't be ready by next summer.

"If legislation is ready to go July 1, 2018, policing will not be ready to go Aug. 1," Rick Barnum said, "It's impossible."

One province is suggesting the federal government pay for police training as well as provide the money to hire additional officers for enforcement.

When questioned about financial help for the provinces, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pointed to $274 million over the next five years recently announced by his government to help with police training and fight the involvement of organized crime.

Public Minister Ralph Goodale says the Liberal government is providing funding for provinces to beef up enforcement and training for the legalization of marijuana. (CBC)

Another area of concern is taxation.

One province wants to know how the federal government plans to divvy up tax revenue from the sale of pot, saying right now Ottawa controls the tax levers and there's no agreement yet on how the provinces will get their share.

The premiers' working group will report back by Nov. 1.

After that, they will decide if they too will ask for a formal extension to Ottawa's deadline — though many acknowledge the federal government is determined to stick to its timeline despite the concerns.


Susan Lunn has been covering politics in Ottawa since 2002. She has a special interest in health and the environment.


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