In­tro­duc­ing Mary Jane

The Pilot - - Editorial -

The At­lantic prov­inces have some blue-sky think­ing to do, and not much time to do it. Or more to the point: maybe they have some blue-smoke think­ing to be do­ing.

Last week, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced its plans to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana and, in so do­ing, threw the ball into the pro­vin­cial court. The prov­inces will have the fi­nal say on how weed will be mar­keted in their re­gions, and also on things like the min­i­mum age of pur­chasers. And that’s only the be­gin­ning. In fact, the prov­inces have more than a lit­tle heavy lift­ing of their own to do in the 15 months be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s changed rules be­come law.

For the most part, the re­sponse has been like that of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Nova Sco­tia’s pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment: “Le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis must en­sure that the health and safety of chil­dren and youth are pro­tected. It is im­por­tant that we fo­cus on re­spon­si­ble use and that the sale of cannabis is well-reg­u­lated and min­i­mizes the in­volve­ment of or­ga­nized crime.”

In New­found­land and Labrador, there was a prom­ise of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion and a clear process for po­lice to deal with pot-im­paired driv­ers, with Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Par­sons say­ing, “No doubt there’s a lot of chal­lenges here. This is a huge, fun­da­men­tal shift for our prov­ince, and for the coun­try.”

Prince Ed­ward Is­land al­ready has a li­censed med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­ducer, as does New Brunswick. And while P.E.I. politi­cians may still be con­sid­er­ing the im­pact of the up­com­ing leg­is­la­tion, in New Brunswick, they’ve jumped in with both feet.

The push has been to take ad­van­tage of a fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­nity: “We be­lieve that here in New Brunswick, we should do what we can to get a piece of the eco­nomic growth that’s go­ing to hap­pen be­cause of the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana. There are go­ing to be jobs cre­ated,” Premier Brian Gal­lant said in early April. “Once we keep peo­ple safe and get mar­i­juana out of the hands of youth, we should be treat­ing this in­dus­try as any other.”

There’s a lot to do, and pre­cious lit­tle time. And the four At­lantic prov­inces, with so much in com­mon, should be aware that, along with shared borders, we’re go­ing to have shared mar­i­juana users. If one ju­ris­dic­tion has reg­u­la­tion that’s more lax than the others, buy­ers will stream in and pot will stream out.

It makes for an in­ter­est­ing jug­gling act — not only do in­di­vid­ual pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have to lis­ten to the de­sires of their con­stituents, they have to be aware of the close geo­graphic con­nec­tions.

There are in­ter­est­ing times ahead and a tight time­line, along with the chance at a new source of tax rev­enue.

Not be­ing ready when next July ar­rives prob­a­bly isn’t an op­tion. As other ju­ris­dic­tions have shown, if you’re not ready for mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion, it can over­take you in a hurry.

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