Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2017
Source: Winnipeg Sun (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Joyanne Pursaga
Page: 5


The Manitoba government is seeking out private input on who should
sell legal pot and how they should do so.

But Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said public sales haven't been
ruled out and the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba is "pretty
likely" to wind up regulating the industry.

The province issued an expression of interest Thursday to determine
options for the distribution and sale of cannabis.

"No options are off the table right now. We are opening this up to get
more ideas on how to do this," Stefanson said.

Stefanson said the EOI will help determine the marketplace for the
drug and ensure a safe, quality product. The minister said the
province hasn't decided if a standard provincial training program will
be required for all sellers.

She stressed the option of using Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to
handle sales also hasn't been ruled out.

"We welcome (Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries) to give their expression
of interest, as well as all Manitobans, with respect to the
distribution," Stefanson said.

The feds have committed to legalize recreational marijuana sales
across Canada by July 1, 2018. The Manitoba government has
unsuccessfully lobbied to delay that date, arguing there are still too
many unanswered questions as to how police will address drugged
driving and other public safety concerns.

In the meantime, a local marijuana legalization advocate welcomed the
option of private pot sales, especially if handled in part by those
already selling bongs and other pot-related items. "These are the
people who've fostered the growth of the advocacy that's led to this
point in society where we are having conversations about legalizing
this drug," Steven Stairs said. "I think that would be a huge slap in
the face to the people who have started this industry (to exclude them
from legal sales)." Stairs said a public-private blend of marijuana
sellers could work but suspects a completely public system would be
too expensive.

"The cost and the infrastructure that has to go into place to set up
that regulatory system and then maintain it (is) a big cost to
taxpayers that I personally don't feel is justified," he said.

But Manitoba's NDP justice critic said the province should rely on
Liquor Mart staff to handle initial sales, with exceptions for small
centres that don't have the stores.

"We've already got a resource in this province that has provided safe,
widespread, intelligent distribution of alcohol," said Andrew Swan,
who is open to private sales later on.

Swan called it "embarrassing" that the Pallister government was in
power more than a year before it issued an EOI to determine how best
to sell legal pot.

But Stefanson said the province's first priority was to complete
legislation that addresses the health and safety risks of pot, which
it followed with a retail focus after more federal information on
legalization was released.

"The federal legislation was just introduced three months ago, I don't
think that's a delay at all," she said.

The province will accept cannabis production submissions until Sept. 8.
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