Pubdate: Sat, 14 Oct 2017
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Calgary Sun
Author: James Wood
Page: 7


Premier Rachel Notley won't say which way her NDP government is
leaning when it comes to sales of legal cannabis, but she insists the
province is carefully weighing the merits of public- and
private-sector options.

Under its policy framework unveiled last week, the NDP will allow
recreational marijuana to be sold only in standalone stores once
cannabis is legalized next year, but the government is still weighing
whether to set up a system of government owned and operated stores, or
leave retail to the private sector.

Speaking to reporters Friday in Calgary, Notley said the government
has reached no conclusion on what she called "a big decision."

"One of the issues there to balance is public safety and quality
control in terms of keeping the product going to the people who should
legally have it, versus getting it out the door as quickly as we can,"
she said.

Notley acknowledged tight timelines are also an issue in the
government's choice.

The NDP government intends to decide on the vehicle for retail sales
ahead of presenting legislation in the fall sitting of the
legislature, which starts at the end of this month.

Recreational marijuana becomes legal on July 1, 2018.

Alberta would face the risk of substantial upfront costs in setting up
government-owned cannabis stores, though they could end up bringing in
more public revenue in the long run, says the government.

On the other hand, it acknowledges a private retail system would
likely be more flexible in meeting consumer demand and would provide
more economic opportunities to small business.

Jason Kujath, the president of 51st Parallel Life Sciences - a company
aiming to produce and sell cannabis in Alberta when the product is
legalized - said there is significant concern the Notley government
will choose a public model for retail.

Kujath estimates setting up a system of government owned and operated
cannabis stores would cost around $1.2 billion.

One of the main proponents of a public system, the Alberta Federation
of Labour, has said that government owned stores would create
higher-quality jobs with unionized staff and would be safer for
employees and the public.
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