Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Nick Martin and Dylan Robertson
Page: A6


Questions raised about decision to allow municipal authority over

PREMIER Brian Pallister's government went stone cold silent on legal
retail cannabis Thursday while federal officials considered their
reaction to Manitoba's plan of allowing municipal councils to have the
final say on local sales.

The federal government will brief reporters in Ottawa today on its
plans to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis.

But the Pallister government did not make the premier or any cabinet
ministers available to the media Thursday and a communications staffer
intervened when a reporter tried to ask Justice Minister Heather
Stefanson about any possible reaction from Ottawa.

The province did release revenue projections and other data from a
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries expression of interest on handling all
aspects of legal cannabis.

Those data projections were based on the public sector's handling
cannabis, rather than the system of private retailers selling under
public oversight which Pallister announced Tuesday.

The province has not yet made a decision on taxes that will be applied
to pot sales, another factor the MLL figures lack.

And MLL's projections were filed before this week's revelation that
the Pallister government will allow municipal councils to decide if
they'll allow local cannabis retail sales, using the same authority
that lets them control Sunday shopping or choose whether the community
will be wet or dry.

Prospective private retailers have until Dec. 22 to submit their own
business plans.

The Crown corporation estimated that Manitoba's annual black market is
25 million grams of cannabis at a value of $217 million to $250 million.

MLL forecast a net profit of $12.7 million if it captured just 20 per
cent of the current market.

Within five years, MLL said, it projected that an 80 per cent market
share, including edible cannabis and lotions, would make a profit of
$94 million.

The figures MLL used suggest it was looking at an initial price of
$5.83 a gram.

So far, Health Canada will not outright confirm whether municipalities
can use their bylaws to ban pot sales.

"The proposed act provides scope for provinces and territories to
enact legislation that contains minimum conditions, so that public
health and safety objectives are consistently addressed across the
country," spokesman Eric Morrissette said.

He said that provinces could boost the minimum age, lower the
possession limit, or restrict personal cultivation and could also
provide their municipalities the choice of making their own decisions
in those areas.

"This approach allows provinces, territories and municipalities to
take specific local considerations into account," wrote

He supplied the transcript from a Sept. 11 committee meeting, in which
MPs asked senior federal officials whether provinces - not
municipalities - could effectively ban marijuana sales by lowering the
personal possession limit to zero.

Diane Labelle, Health Canada's general counsel, said a court would
likely find that illegal and order the province to change its rules.

"Where the purpose of a federal act would be frustrated by the
provision of a provincial oneĀ… a court would examine whether there is
a conflict, or whether the purposes of the federal act are frustrated,
and could find the provincial law inoperable to the extent of that
frustration," Labelle told the House health committee.

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said that means a lack of
clarity over whether towns and First Nations reserves could keep their
communities dry or face a similar legal crackdown.

"I certainly think that's concerning," she said.

"There's a lot of abdication of leadership from the federal Liberals
on this; they're rushing ahead without thinking of any of these
details and all these questions keep coming forward."

Federal NDP health critic Don Davies said courts would likely strike
down municipal bans if they unjustly discriminate against a legalized
form of commerce.

"Balance is going to be the touchstone; there could be justifiable
exceptions," Davies said.

"But if it's nothing but a subterfuge, a cover, to frustrate federal
policy without a justified reason, then I think there's going to be

Manitoba Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk said Thursday that municipal pot
bans likely won't work in practice, noting that Steinbach allowed
alcohol sales in recent years.

"I think Pallister needs to reflect," she said.

"Social norms are governing the day and I think he's being too cute.
It would be more valuable if he put in a structure that actually
reflected the use of other substances, like alcohol and cigarettes,
for the whole province."
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