Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Andrew Klukas
Page: A10


If access isn't convenient, legalization won't work, writes Andrew

In July 2018, the federal government will legalize the production and
distribution of cannabis. Between now and then, the provinces and
territories will have to decide how to adapt to this

Whether or not one agrees with the legalization, everyone can agree
that when it happens, the systems that the provinces put in place
should promote the goals of legalization that, if realized, will be
positive. Through its legislation, the federal government aims to move
cannabis from the illegal market into a regulated system in which
products can be taxed and where quality standards and controls protect

At least three things will be necessary to realize these goals. It's
already well-understood that if the prices of legal products are too
high it will create an opportunity for illegal markets to persist.

Secondly, legal products should come with readily identifiable,
branded packaging. This will make them harder to counterfeit while
providing the public with a guarantee of product standards of quality
and safety.

The third necessity is a convenient distribution system for legal
products. Think about it. If prohibition is ended for consumers, but
the options to legally purchase products are too limited, this will
create the conditions for a boom in the supply of illegal products
through the underground market.

This is precisely what the province of Ontario is inviting through its
recent proposal to limit supply to 150 government-owned sites by 2020.
That distribution model will be vastly inadequate for Ontario and it
will ensure that the illegal market thrives as the most convenient
option for many consumers.

Today, it's easy to buy cannabis: If we make it hard to buy from legal
sellers tomorrow, people will just continue to buy it elsewhere.

In other words, legalization can't be successful if the provinces go
only half-way. When consumption is legalized, the channels of
distribution must allow sufficient access to the corresponding legal

The new legal industry must be as inclusive as possible or underground
activity will persist and, potentially, thrive.

To be clear, when we think of selling cannabis products in convenience
stores we are thinking about the sale of pre-packaged, standardized
products - not the sale of open products as seen in "medical
dispensaries" that have sprung up across the country.

Convenience stores are served by a distribution system that supports
the legal sale of a variety of controlled goods, such as tobacco, and
are well-positioned to adapt to include distribution of cannabis
products as well. The stringent controls already in place to secure
the collection of provincial and federal taxes on such products can
accommodate any new products requiring similar controls - be they
provincial or interprovincial.

Moreover, as found through a recent labour market study funded by the
province of British Columbia, working in a convenience store,
especially one with a gas station, requires a more complex set of
skills and more responsibility than is commonly thought.

Employees are not simply cashiers or gas attendants. Their tasks are
varied, complex and demand a high degree of accountability for
compliance with government regulations regarding responsible
retailing, health and safety, food and beverage preparation, and
environmental protection. The framework for responsible retailing of
cannabis is already well established.

Convenience stores are therefore well-prepared to handle the variety
of quality-controlled products that will soon be entering the legal
market. They successfully handle a variety of age-restricted products
including alcohol in underserved or remote areas, and Health Canada
studies confirms the strength of their commitment to

They are perfectly capable of safely handling legal cannabis products
subject to the regulations federal and provincial governments put in
place to control their sale. And the existing producers of medicinal
cannabis are already working to develop carefully branded recreational
products containing consumer information to protect public safety.

The conditions for a successful legal market are in place. Those
conditions include convenience stores. It's up to provincial
governments to ensure these conditions prevail.

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Andrew Klukas is president of the Western Convenience Stores Association.
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