Pubdate: Sat, 15 Jul 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Nick Martin
Page: A4


Pallister says marijuana legalization makes province a

OTTAWA is forcing the provincial government to compete with street
gangs in the marijuana business next summer, Premier Brian Pallister
said Friday.

The federal mandate for provinces to be ready for legal retail
cannabis sales is July 1, 2018. That doesn't give Manitoba anywhere
near the amount of time it will take to control sales and prepare for
legal pot, he told reporters.

"There's no way we're going to supply the demand, except in part. It's
pretty clearly understood, we don't have enough pot to sell," he said,
outlining some of the issues he'll raise at next week's premiers
meeting in Edmonton.

As a result, street gangs will still be part of the supply market this
time next year, he said.

The Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment on the premier's
statements Friday.

"We're running blind; we're running fast, directly at something that
will put us in competition," Pallister said. "The safety of Canadians
is at risk. There's no guarantee of 100 per cent success if we had
five years to get ready."

"We're not given a choice."

Pallister remained vague on the plan for legal sales in Manitoba. The
former NDP government had talked about selling pot in liquor stores.

"We'll have an announcement we'll probably make in the next couple of
weeks about commercialization," he said without elaborating.

University of Winnipeg criminal justice Prof. Michael Weinrath said he
doesn't think legal retailers should have any concerns about competing
with gangs.

"Generally, the research conducted around legalization in Colorado and
Washington has been favourable. Crime rates have not soared, nor has
society as we know it collapsed there. Tourism has increased to those
states, not to mention increased tax revenues," said Weinrath,
director of the U of W's Justice Research Institute.

"Generally, public sellers of marijuana do not have to provide drugs
at a lower price than organized crime, because most people will prefer
to purchase product from a private vendor."

"Compare it to the idea that you could buy cheap booze from a
bootlegger or the (liquor store). I would take the (liquor store) no
matter how cheap the booze was, because I know that I won't go blind
or keel over from food poisoning," he said.

"However, there is a point where if booze is extremely expensive I
might buy illegally or make my own. But let's face it, most people
cannot make booze as good as the government's suppliers, and I doubt
it will be different with marijuana.

"In the U.S., they have become successful at marketing a variety of
brands in the legalized states."

He said the provincial government has not made any secret of its
opposition to legalizing recreational weed.

"Their foot-dragging is not surprising," he said.

"Considering how dire our revenue situation is, I would think that the
government would be thinking of ways to make this work, as opposed to
inventing reasons why it will not... I am unclear on why marijuana
legalization is such a monumental task or why there are so many
potential problems."

Pallister said Manitoba has focused on finding ways to protect the
health and safety of users, and to address the issue of users driving
under the influence.

Overall, he said, there isn't time to resolve law-enforcement matters
and make decisions about marijuana production, sales and pricing,
among other concerns.

Nevertheless, he said, Federal Finance Minister "Bill Morneau has been
clear - they're going to make it available by mail order in every
province that doesn't do what it wants."

The Opposition NDP said Friday the Tories have had lots of time to
prepare for legalized marijuana, which was a plank in the federal
Liberals' 2015 election campaign platform.

"It's difficult to respond to the premier's assertions, for which he
provides no evidence," NDP press secretary Rachel Morgan said.

"He has had a year to start preparing for the legalization of
marijuana. Manitoba will fall behind other provinces if the Pallister
government doesn't accelerate the work it needs to do."
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