Pubdate: Sat, 11 Nov 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Allan Woods
Page: A23


Western regions may pass sales off to private retailers to try to
thwart black market

MONTREAL- A national split is emerging on marijuana legalization that
pits Ontario and eastern provinces opting for total control over pot
sales against private retail regimes emerging in the West.

The regional divide reflects a clash of opinions about whether it is
more important to put black-market pot producers out of business or
heed public-health warnings when access to the drug becomes legal on
July 1, 2018.

So far, only three Canadian provinces have spelled out their approach
to the sale of marijuana. Both Ontario and New Brunswick have opted to
control access to cannabis through retail stores that will be operated
by the provincial liquor boards.

Ontario plans to launch 40 stores in time for next summer that will be
run by a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The plan
calls for 150 stores by 2020.

New Brunswick has unveiled an even tougher plan to have a maximum of
20 government-run pot stores in 15 communities. Identification will be
checked at the entrance, there will be no advertising or window
displays and the product will be kept in locked glass cases.

But Manitoba came out this week in contrast to its eastern
counterparts and other western provinces look poised to follow suit.

Premier Brian Pallister said Manitoba's liquor board will distribute
legal marijuana to private retailers, who will have freedom to market
the product, with certain restrictions, and set competitive prices.
Bids on retail licences are being accepted through to Dec. 22.

"It will help achieve our goal of eliminating the black market which
has controlled the cannabis trade for a very long time," Pallister
said of the private sales model.

The emerging plans pit a "Prohibition-era mentality" in Eastern Canada
against a free-market view that reigns in the West, said Andrew
Klukas, president of the Western Convenience Store Association, which
represents 7,000 retail outlets in the four western provinces as well
as Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

New Brunswick's cannabis legislation, for example, requires pot
smokers to keep their stash in a locked container or room in their
home to prevent minors from getting at it. Ontario will ban people
from smoking anywhere but their private residences.

"Out here in the West, we're being a bit more pragmatic and looking at
it from the perspective of tomorrow and what the world's going to look
like," Klukas said. "The stigma is not going to exist in the future."

British Columbia has expressed openness to having a mix of private
stores, as the city of Vancouver has specifically requested, and
government-run outlets in other parts of the province. In
Saskatchewan, deputy premier Don Morgan said of Ontario's plan: "I
suspect we would probably be looking at other options," according to
the CBC.

Alberta's NDP government noted in an October framework document that
the Ontario model allows for oversight and control, while private
retailers may be more effective at choking off the black-market supply.

But it's not yet clear what direction Quebec will take. A government
spokesperson refused to comment, saying legislation would be tabled
"very soon." But reports suggest that the distribution and sale of pot
will be overseen by the Societe des alcools du Quebec, the provincial
liquor board.

But Alain Bouchard, head of Quebec's Couche-Tard convenience store
chain, wants in, having hired lobbyists to make the company's case to
the provincial government.
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