Pubdate: Fri, 15 Sep 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Authors: Rob Shaw and Geordon Omand
Page: A3


Provinces still looking for more direction from federal government

B.C.'s top cop says the province remains undecided on how it will tax,
distribute and regulate the use of marijuana once the federal
government legalizes it next summer.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he hopes to hear more ideas from
his provincial and federal counterparts Friday as they continue a
meeting in Vancouver. Ottawa intends to legalize pot within 10 months,
forcing the provinces to develop their own rules.

"It's certainly a challenging deadline, not just for British Columbia
but all provinces, and I think both ministers and premiers have been
saying that to the federal government," Farnworth said Thursday. "We
know it is a challenge in B.C., but one we're working toward."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in the 2015 federal election to
legalize personal use of marijuana. However, much of the specifics
will be up to provinces, such as where marijuana can be purchased, how
it is policed, the rate at which it is taxed, the age at which it can
be consumed, how municipalities will regulate existing medical
cannabis stores, and how it will affect the definition of impaired

Answering those questions "will be critical," Farnworth said. Part of
his consultation on the subject is "getting a good sense of other
provinces in terms of the stage they are at."

He also said the province will have to pick carefully its taxation
rate, or risk driving sales of marijuana back underground.

"You cannot set the tax rate too high that it encourages the black
market," he said. "This is about legalization, this isn't about
revenue generation. This isn't about looking at this as a money grab
that somehow you are going to have all this money coming in."

The previous B.C. Liberal government opposed the idea of selling
marijuana through public and private liquor stores, alongside alcohol.
But the B.C. Government Services Employees' Union - a major donor to
the NDP - is strongly in favour of using the government liquor stores
and is likely to push the New Democrat government hard to reconsider.

During the election, Premier John Horgan said he supported using
public liquor stores to dispense cannabis and saw a role for
pharmacies as a "comfortable" option for older people using medicinal

The NDP must also consider its power-sharing agreement with the B.C.
Greens, which gives the Greens significant ability to stall or defeat
government proposals it opposes.

The Greens have said they don't want the cannabis industry taken over
by multinational companies.

The provincial justice ministers began two days of meetings in
Vancouver with federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Thursday.

Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said in a statement that
her government wants more clarity on how the Canadian government
intends to support provinces in implementing The Cannabis Act.

She stressed the importance of developing proper policy to address
road safety and enforcement.

Ontario Justice Minister Yasir Naqvi described the deadline as tight
but added his province is working to be ready by July 1, 2018.

Ontario became the first province to make public its plans for
legalized cannabis last week, saying it would restrict sales to stores
operated by the province's liquor board.

He said Ontario developed its plan following extensive consultations
and other provinces and territories will have to find their own way.

The federal government has come under fire for what appears to be a
hands-off approach to regulating the sale and policing of marijuana
once it becomes legal.

Trudeau has said repeatedly it is important to act quickly to get
marijuana out of the hands of youth, who he says have easier access to
weed than beer.

Youth health experts urged a House of Commons health committee earlier
this week to develop extensive prevention and public education
campaigns focusing on the harmful effects of marijuana, warning
stronger regulations alone will be ineffective in deterring kids from
smoking pot.

Representatives from several police forces have warned the federal
government there was no chance police would be ready in time to
enforce new laws for legalized pot.
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