Pubdate: Mon, 18 Jan 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: John Ivison
Page: A4


Could Canada Post become Canada Pot? The Crown corporation is 
desperately seeking new revenue sources, as mail volumes drop five 
per cent a year.

At the same time, the federal government is equally frantic in its 
hunt for income, as the economy slows.

The suggestion from producers of medicinal marijuana is that Canada 
Post be the initial distribution network for recreational cannabis, 
after pot is legalized by the new government.

The new market could be worth as much as $7 billion according to some 
estimates. If the federal and provincial governments impose a 
20-per-cent excise tax, it will amount to considerably more than the 
"bit of revenue" anticipated by the prime minister in a press 
conference before Christmas, when he said any money raised would be 
diverted towards addiction treatment and education.

Mark Zekulin, president of Tweed, the country's largest producer of 
medical marijuana, said his product is already distributed using 
Canada Post and the quickest way to introduce a legalized system 
would be to use a network that already carefully tracks the product 
from seed to consumer, with negligible diversion to the criminal market.

A spokesman for the Crown corporation said Canada Post would be 
guided by the law. "If it is legal to mail, we will accept it, and if 
it is deemed not to be legal to go through the mail then obviously we 
won't," he said.

The federal government has said it will set up a task force with the 
provinces and territories to look at distribution of legalized pot 
but the fear is the process might take years. A number of provinces 
have already said their provincial liquor board retail network might 
provide an efficient distribution network.

Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who will stickhandle the 
pot file for the federal government as parliamentary secretary for 
justice, said he wants to talk to the provinces before making any decisions.

"They play a significant role in regulation, so that has to take 
place. I get that people in the industry are anxious to move forward. 
But we've got a bit of work to do," he said in an interview.

He added there will be no timeline on changes to the Criminal Code 
until discussions have taken place with the ministers of Justice, 
Public Safety and Health - conversations that have not yet taken 
place. "We haven't had time to do that but we know there is a need 
for us to get going and we will do so as quickly as possible. But 
we're not taking any shortcuts," he said.

Currently, medical marijuana is sold by mail order with a 
prescription. Under an expanded, legalized system, suppliers could 
collect payment online and ship to an address provided by the buyer. 
Canada Post already makes wine deliveries, where age has to be 
verified by the recipient. A similar age and identity verification 
system would work for pot, industry proponents argue.

While it might seem unlikely that Canada Post would use its retail 
network as pot dispensaries, the Crown corporation is already 
changing its look as it bets its future on e-commerce. One store in 
Richmond Hill, Ont., has been given a makeover that includes a 
drive-thru, vending machines and changing rooms, where customers can 
try on the clothes they have ordered and return them immediately if 
they are not satisfied.
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