Pubdate: Tue, 29 Aug 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Giuseppe Valiante
Page: B4


Provinces agree marijuana cost, quality and access must be competitive
with black market: Blair

MONTREAL - There is an overwhelming national consensus that legal
marijuana must be priced, taxed and made available competitively with
the black market, the man tasked with leading the drug's legalization
in Canada said Monday.

All the provinces agree more needs to be done to better protect
children and to take away revenues from organized criminals, MP Bill
Blair said in an interview Monday.

Canada plans on legalizing marijuana by July 2018 by allowing adults
to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up
to four plants per household.

Distribution and sale of the drug is up to the provinces, however, and
there are still questions about how much they will tax marijuana or
restrict its availability on their territory.

Blair has been on a national tour speaking with municipal and
provincial politicians and other stakeholders regarding the
fast-approaching legalization deadline.

The details are still unclear as to how provinces such as Quebec will
legislate the distribution, price and access of legal pot and public
consultations are ongoing across the province.

"I would never presume to speak for Quebec or any other province in
this regard," Blair said.

"But in all the conversations I've been involved with - including
Quebec - there is an overwhelming consensus that we need to do a
better job protecting our communities and our kids.

"That we don't want to leave this business with organized crime, and
in order to defeat organized crime on this thing, we have to be able
to be competitive with price and quality and access."

Blair said while there will be savings to the provinces by reducing
the number of marijuana-related arrests and cases moving through the
criminal court system, an upfront investment will still be required.

"We're going to have to invest in infrastructure and administration
and those who are responsible for keeping communities safe will need
legislation, technology, the tools, resources and training - and that
will require investment," he said.

Adam Greenblatt with Ontario-based medical marijuana company Canopy
Growth, said an important issue in the debate is product branding.

Bill C-45, the legislation to legalize marijuana that is making its
way through the Parliamentary process, prohibits marketing the drug in
a way "that could be appealing to young persons or encourage its

"It's important for us to differentiate our products from one another,
but also from the illicit market," Greenblatt said. "Brands help
solidify consumer confidence."

Blair said there is room in the legislation to allow "for some level
of branding" - but within reasonable limits.

If provinces aren't ready with their legal framework by July 2018, the
federal government plans on making weed available to any Canadians by
the federally regulated mail service through licensed producers, which
is currently how many medical marijuana patients receive their product.

Greenblatt, Quebec brand manager for Canopy Growth, said allowing
direct online sales to anyone in Quebec "is a touchy issue" in the

He said the province's health authorities have raised concerns about
mail-order marijuana once it becomes legal.

Greenblatt, whose company sells marijuana online and delivers it to
patients through the mail, said "it's all the more important to allow
us to continue doing this because there is already a black market
mail-order business."
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MAP posted-by: Matt