Pubdate: Wed, 12 Apr 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: A4


Senior official says the federal government will announce a push to
allow smaller marijuana producers to enter the market

The federal government is getting ready to drastically speed up its
licensing process to increase the numbers of companies that are
authorized to produce marijuana for the recreational market that will
open up in the first half of 2018, sources said.

A senior federal official said that in addition to tabling legislation
to legalize marijuana on Thursday, the federal government will
announce a push to authorize new producers of marijuana. At this
point, there are 42 companies that have the necessary authorizations
from Health Canada to produce marijuana for medical purposes across
the country.

The official said the current holders of licences will have a head
start once the market is opened up to recreational users, but added
that the federal government will add staff and resources at Health
Canada to speed up the approval process for new producers.

A key concern is ensuring that the supply of marijuana will meet the
demand for the drug once it is legalized by the unofficial deadline of
July 1, 2018. As Ottawa works toward squeezing out illegal producers
of marijuana, federal officials are worried that a shortage of
cannabis would hurt their plans in the initial stages of legalization.
Another priority for the government will be to ensure that there is a
broad variety of producers of marijuana serving the recreational
market, and not just the existing network that includes many
large-scale facilities.

"It's obvious that the producers who are already licensed have an
advantage going in. But there is also a clear desire on the
government's part to have a mix of big and small producers," said the
federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the
tabling of the legislation.

"There is a great deal of awareness to the needs of smaller producers
in the government," the official added.

Federal officials said the government will table its legislation on
Thursday, but that a number of key issues will only be addressed in
the rules and regulations that will be unveiled at a later date.

Ottawa will give itself broad powers to oversee the production of
marijuana and to design rules on the marketing of the product, which
are expected to be similar to the ones that govern Canada's tobacco

The federal government will leave the provinces and territories
entirely in charge of overseeing the distribution and sale of
marijuana, in line with Canada's alcohol regime.

"We are going to let them make their own choices on the sales side,"
the federal official said. "It's going to be similar to the situation
with alcohol. In Alberta, it's in the hands of the private sector,
whereas in Quebec and Ontario, it's run by the state."

After it is tabled in the House, the legislation to legalize marijuana
will be studied in committee. At the same time, the provinces will be
expected to develop their own plans to distribute and sell the
product. The federal government will also be working to develop an
"interim system" by which marijuana would be available across Canada
even if some provinces do not develop their own distribution
mechanisms quickly enough. Sources said the project remains in
development, although Canada Post could deliver recreational marijuana
by mail, as it currently does with medical marijuana.

The federal legislation will be inspired in large part by a task force
led by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan, which proposed a
complete legalization model in a well-received report last year.

The task force urged the government to allow Canadians to buy or carry
30 grams of marijuana for personal use, and to grow up to four plants
at home. The task force also recommended a system that would feature
storefront sales and mail-order distribution, and allow a wide range
of producers to operate legally, including "craft" growers and the
current producers of medical marijuana.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already endorsed one of its key
recommendations: that marijuana should be legal for people who are of
legal drinking age - 18 or 19 years old, depending on the province
they live in.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt