NAPE likes marijuana’s smell
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.”
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.
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.