No fan­fare for le­gal pot in St. An­thony

As new law takes ef­fect only le­gal lo­cal op­tion is on­line sales

Northern Pen - - Front Page - BY THOM BARKER SPE­CIAL TO THE NORTH­ERN PEN

It is now the law of the land. On the evening of Oct. 16 peo­ple lined up in St. John’s for up to four hours to be­come among the first cus­tomers to buy le­gal cannabis in Canada. At 12:01 a.m. this morn­ing three shops in New­found­land opened for busi­ness.

Among the places in the prov­ince not in­cluded in that his­toric mo­ment was St. An­thony. There are no le­gal shops in the town, or any­where on the North­ern Penin­sula, for that mat­ter.

St. An­thony Mayor Des­mond McDon­ald said it would be tough for a small town to sup­port a cannabis shop be­cause of the re­stric­tions and profit mar­gins.

“I had heard that there maybe were a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent busi­nesses that had ap­plied, but they did not meet the cri­te­ria,” he said. “As a busi­nessper­son, I look at the num­bers in it, I don’t see the vol­ume; I don’t see where it would be prof­itable for a lo­cal busi­ness.”

Provin­cial govern­ment But St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Mead­ows MHA Christo­pher Mitchel­more said that could change as the in­dus­try evolves.

“There are op­por­tu­ni­ties as the NLC and as pri­vate com­pa­nies look at want­ing to es­tab­lish a cannabis store in a par­tic­u­lar re­gion,” he said.

He noted there are four tiers of re­tail out­lets avail­able un­der the provin­cial leg­is­la­tion, stand­alone stores, a store within an ex­ist­ing store (along the lines of Liquor Ex­press), a coun­ter­top op­er­a­tion (like the Canada Post model), and a be­hind-the­counter cov­ered en­ter­prise (the way to­bacco is cur­rently sold in con­ve­nience stores).

He be­lieves ar­eas not served, or un­der­served, will even­tu­ally have store­fronts.

“Some peo­ple may be a lit­tle more cau­tious in the be­gin­ning to see how this is go­ing to evolve and will there be an op­por­tu­nity for me in six months or a year?” he said, adding it was the same way when NLC went from govern­ment stores only to of­fer­ing Liquor Ex­press fran­chises.

“They started with a small num­ber and now there are many through­out New­found­land and Labrador.”

“It’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to be that big a change up here,” McDon­ald said. “Peo­ple who smoke mar­i­juana are go­ing to smoke mar­i­juana, wher­ever they get it.”

New­found­land and Labrador at­tor­ney gen­eral An­drew Par­sons told The North­ern Pen last week, he was very pleased with the po­si­tion New­found­land and Labrador is in with 23 store­fronts and on­line sales open­ing to­day, which he said is

much fur­ther ahead than other provinces. Still, he re­al­izes that does not im­me­di­ately re­place the il­le­gal trade.

“I’ve said all along, I’m not silly enough to think that this black mar­ket that does ex­ist is go­ing to go away right away, I mean, we still have a black mar­ket that ex­ists with al­co­hol and to­bacco, but the fact is there will be le­gal op­tions,” he said.

While Par­sons may not be naïve enough to think peo­ple will not con­tinue to ob­tain pot from ex­ist­ing sources, he Pol­lard, a dock worker.

Alexan­der Hil­lier, a Grade 11 stu­dent at White Hills Academy, dis­agreed. “I don’t think it’s a good thing be­cause more young peo­ple that was scared to try it be­cause it was il­le­gal at the time are go­ing to try it now, they’re not go­ing to be as scared,” he said.

Ena Tay­lor, a ho­tel worker from Raleigh, took a more neu­tral view. “For me, it re­ally don’t mat­ter one way or the other cause peo­ple are gonna get their hands on it any­way,” she said. warned that there are still penal­ties.

“Peo­ple know what the law is, so if they want to choose to con­tinue to avail of the black mar­ket, they will face the con­se­quences of do­ing that,” he said.

Un­der the new act, it is still a crim­i­nal of­fence to sell cannabis with­out a li­cence and pos­sess il­le­gally ob­tained prod­ucts. Penal­ties for dis­tri­bu­tion range up to 14 years in prison and for il­le­gal pos­ses­sion up to five years.

That is not fore­most on the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s mind, how­ever.

“When it comes to polic­ing, polic­ing is al­ways done at their dis­cre­tion, I will leave it to po­lice to do that,” he said. “My big­gest con­cern is that if peo­ple are driv­ing and they have cannabis, they bet­ter not be un­der the in­flu­ence when they’re driv­ing.”

That is also McDon­ald’s big­gest con­cern.

“I would say, the im­paired is­sue is go­ing to come up be­cause how are they go­ing to de­ter­mine some­one is im­paired?” he said. “I don’t think the RCMP is any­where near pre­pared to han­dle test­ing for it.”

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