Pubdate: Sun, 22 Oct 2017
Source: Edmond Sun, The (OK)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmond Sun
Author: Jonny Wakefield
Page: 4


The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has adopted a
resolution supporting the public sale of marijuana when the drug
becomes legal next year.

The federal government plans to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018,
but has left many of the details - including how the drug will be sold
- - up to the provinces.

On the last day of its annual convention Saturday, members of the
AUPE, Alberta's largest labour organization, endorsed a resolution
that "all cannabis retail outlets be publicly owned and operated by
the Government of Alberta or one of its regulated agencies."

Guy Smith, president of the union, said the resolution went to the
convention floor after the AUPE was asked to take a public position on
whether it supported the public or private sale of cannabis.

"I think what you heard (were) a number of debates," he said. "We're
concerned about the health, safety and well-being of Albertans, and
feel a public retail process would protect that."

Members also debated whether the AUPE should spend time debating the
question at all.

Smith said 75,000 of the union's 90,000 members are at the bargaining
table negotiating 70 collective agreements over the next two years,
including with the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.
He said the issue of marijuana sales wasn't really on the radar before
a late resolution Wednesday.

"But we recognize the public and the media and maybe the government
are looking to us to set some direction on that," he said. "Now we
have it. But we have many, many bigger fish to fry."

"We're much more interested in talking about public services ...
health care, education, social services, highway maintenance - all
those things our members provide. That's much more of an issue to us
than whether cannabis retail outlets should be public or not."

The Ontario government plans to sell marijuana through 150 stores run
by the province's liquor distributor. The plan has been criticized by
consumer advocates, including some who currently operate cannabis

The B.C. Government Employees Union came out in favour of selling
marijuana through the province's liquor stores, though the NDP
government there has yet to take a position. Premier Ralph Klein's
government privatized Alberta's liquor stores in 1994, meaning Alberta
does not have a ready-made distribution system.

Smith said the decision is ultimately the provincial

"The government has to look at a number of options to best serve the
public, but also make sure the public is protected," he said. "I think
that's best done in the public realm."

The government is expected to conclude its consultations on Oct. 28.
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