Provinces see efforts, costs of ending pot prohibition through different lenses
Provinces have been protesting the large volume of work and heavy costs they say the Trudeau government has piled on them in its rush to legalize recreational cannabis across Canada by next year.
So far, however, the small province of New Brunswick has been taking the high road.
Unlike other members of the federation, New Brunswick isn’t pressing for federal compensation to cover the bills of pot legalization, nor is it in a particular scramble to draw up the plans, the province’s health minister said.
Provinces have been busy since the federal government tabled legislation last month to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use, with a primary aim of keeping weed out of the hands of youth and criminals. Ottawa hopes to make it happen by July 2018.
“We didn’t just wait for the federal legislation and then start — we started doing our homework and our due diligence well before, anticipating what the federal legislation was going to look like,’’ New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau said in an interview. “There’s no question if the federal government is willing to help with some of the up-front costs — I’m sure we wouldn’t say no to that. But I’m not necessarily saying that would be necessary just yet, either.”
New Brunswick’s enthusiasm is connected to the fact the province views pot legalization as a future driver for its struggling economy.
Premier Brian Gallant has been trying to position New Brunswick to ensure it gets a big percentage of Canada’s eventual regulated-pot industry, which he predicts will generate “significant’’ growth.
Some provinces, however, aren’t expecting meaningful windfalls — if any at all — once startup costs are factored in. They’ve also expressed concern about what they see as a hurried course set by Ottawa toward legalization.
Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois warns that meeting the federal timeline will be a challenge as provinces, territories and municipalities race to develop complex pot-related rules, programs and strategies within their own jurisdictions.
Setting guidelines related to the minimum legal age, retail sales, public health, education and security are among the wide range of needs.
Charlebois said in an interview that 13 different departments in her government have been hustling to prepare for the pot legalization.
“We don’t have so much time, so we’ve got to go fast,” said Charlebois, who added that she supports the principle of marijuana legalization but would have liked Ottawa to provide a more-rigorous regulatory framework.
Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B. While New Brunswick views pot legalization as a future driver for its struggling economy, some provinces aren’t expecting meaningful windfalls — if any at all — once startup costs are factored in. They’ve also expressed concern about what they see as a hurried course set by Ottawa toward legalization.