NAPE likes mar­i­juana’s smell

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

A cou­ple of years from now, peo­ple pre­par­ing for the May 24 week­end could con­ceiv­ably head to their lo­cal liquor store to pick up a case or two of beer and some sticky green buds.

No­body knows how things will look when Justin Trudeau’s Lib­eral govern­ment un­veils its plan to le­gal­ize and reg­u­late mar­i­juana in Canada. But sev­eral labour unions rep­re­sent­ing pub­lic sec­tor work­ers at liquor stores have spo­ken out in favour of hav­ing the drug sold by their mem­bers.

It would ap­pear the union rep­re­sent­ing New­found­land Labrador Liquor Cor­po­ra­tion (NLC) em­ploy­ees is also on board with this idea.

“We would cer­tainly be sim­i­lar to or the same as what other pub­lic sec­tor unions have ad­vo­cated across the coun­try,” Jerry Earle, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic and Pri­vate Em­ploy­ees (NAPE), told The Com­pass dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view. “We would see that as be­ing a vi­able op­tion if there’s go­ing to be some type of dis­tri­bu­tion point. The checks and bal­ances and the safety cau­tions that would be in place ex­ist (in the NLC) now, be­cause ob­vi­ously they have it there now for the con­trol of al­co­hol sales.”

Lib­eral MP and for­mer Toronto po­lice chief Bill Blair is the lead on this file in Ottawa, and he’s al­ready in­di­cated a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial task force will be set up to ex­plore le­gal­iza­tion. Blair has also em­pha­sized strict con­trols will be placed on mar­i­juana. No time­line has been set for le­gal­iza­tion.

Pub­lic sec­tor unions in Bri­tish Columbia, On­tario and Que­bec have spo­ken out in favour of the sales model uti­liz­ing liquor stores, as have On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne and Man­i­toba Premier Greg Selinger. Un­der this for­mat, pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments would be in a po­si­tion to gen­er­ate rev­enue that goes well be­yond taxes.

Kevin Coady, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the New­found­land and Labrador Al­liance for the Con­trol of To­bacco, thinks sell­ing mar­i­juana through liquor stores makes some sense.

At the very least, he be­lieves spe­cial­ized stores should han­dle the prod­uct.

“I don’t think we want to see that the mar­i­juana is on the coun­ters of our cor­ner stores and the garage where we get out gas,” he said. “Maybe they’re al­ready there in terms of the liquor agen­cies? But we haven’t gone down that road at all yet.”

Train­ing in­evitable

Earle ex­pects train­ing would be nec­es­sary to help work­ers un­der­stand how to deal with the sale of mar­i­juana ver­sus al­co­hol.

“It’s a prod­uct that many wouldn’t be fa­mil­iar with, and they would cer­tainly have the proper train­ing for han­dling it, stor­age — what­ever those pre­cau­tions might be.”

With the prov­ince’s fi­nances in sham­bles as a re­sult of the plung­ing price of oil, talk has turned to how the New­found­land and Labrador govern­ment can cre­ate ef­fi­cien­cies and re­duce ex­penses. Some have ar­gued govern­ment should con­sider pri­va­tiz­ing the NLC. Earle does not be­lieve this is a road the prov­ince will travel down.

“We have con­cerns now ac­tu­ally with this govern­ment on a num­ber of things they’re look­ing at, but … the liquor cor­po­ra­tion is one of those as­sets that govern­ment has that ac­tu­ally gen­er­ates rev­enue for them. We would be strongly ad­vo­cat­ing that if you have some­thing that’s ac­tu­ally gen­er­at­ing rev­enue, why would you off­load at a time when you ac­tu­ally (need it)?

“One of the prob­lems they have right now is on the rev­enue side. They don’t have suf­fi­cient rev­enue to pro­vide the ser­vices. So this is an agency that makes hun­dreds-of-mil­lions of dol­lars for them. Why would you turn that over to a pri­vate sec­tor and lose rev­enue? For us, that would out­right defy logic.”

For the year-2014-15, the NLC recorded a profit of over $160 mil­lion.

The Com­pass con­tacted the of­fice of Premier Dwight Ball. It did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

PHOTO BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Some pub­lic sec­tor unions in Canada are ad­vo­cat­ing for mar­i­juana, once its le­gal­ized, to be sold at liquor stores. The pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic and Pri­vate Em­ploy­ees be­lieves that sales model would also suit this prov­ince.

Earle

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