Pubdate: Tue, 23 Feb 2016
Source: Compass, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2016 The Compass
Author: Andrew Robinson
Page: A1

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." 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.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom