Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2017
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Ashley Martin
Page: A1


With 7 1/2 months until marijuana becomes legal in Canada, a group of
Saskatchewan researchers hopes to help inform the complicated
policy-making process the provincial government faces in the months to

The Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), based at
universities in Regina and Saskatoon, has released a report,
Legalizing & Regulating Cannabis in Saskatchewan.

The provincial government is responsible for setting up all of the
details of a legal cannabis industry, and should have most of the work
in place by June 30.

"It's not going to be easy. I think anything is possible. But it
requires clear thinking," said Jerome Konecsni, an author of the
report and a Saskatoon-based executive-in-residence at JSGS.

"By writing this report, hopefully (we) provide a really good sense of
what needs to be done and what the challenges and what the
opportunities are."

"We're hoping that the policy and the research that we've done will
help facilitate some of that decision making," added co-author George
Hartner, a lecturer in the University of Regina economics department.

The six co-authors - also including Derrick Callan, Jason Childs,
Cynthia Bojkovsky and Kathleen McNutt - have been working since July
to research and write the 96 page report, which offers 40
recommendations to policy-makers on how they might proceed.

On July 1, the federal government plans to legalize production,
distribution and sale of cannabis.

To make this work, the authors suggest forming a committee of
stakeholders, made up of various levels of government, producers,
retailers, various government ministries, health professionals and
First Nations.

Considerations run the gamut from legal age for usage to addressing
impaired driving, production, processing, market distribution,
traceability, quality control and development of new strains, among

It has to be a collaborative and flexible process. How the legal
industry will compete with the illegal market is a big question for
Hartner and Konecsni.

"If the illicit market continues after legalization, we won't see any
of the economic benefits," said Hartner.

Using data from Colorado and other jurisdictions where cannabis is
legal, Hartner and Childs estimated there will be a demand ranging
from 20 to 40 million grams of cannabis per year. A sale of 25 million
grams would generate $25 million in tax revenues and $250 million in
economic benefits.

That tax revenue will be necessary for investing in public education,
additional policing and enforcement, said Konecsni. Additional health
professionals will also be required.

The report recommends a market structure similar to liquor retail -
allowing a limited amount of retail licenses in order to limit

It suggests private retailers versus public for a better consumer
experience in terms of variety, price and quality.

It also suggests a single, regulated, private distributor that can
oversee product tracking and management, to ensure that cannabis in
stores is legally sourced and safe.

It also recommends that the distributor work with local firms to
develop a production market.

"Ideally we would like to see a Saskatchewan production market for
cannabis, in a type of craft cannabis market," said Hartner.

"Why would people move from the illicit marketplace into a legal
market?" asked Konecsni. "The product has to be safer, it has to be
better and it has to be accessible, if you're going to have any
success in moving people away from the illicit market, which is what
the government wants to do."

Konecsni suggests creating a Saskatchewan brand, and "build(ING) the
brand identity around security, safety, better quality, reliable
numbers. … The whole system of quality control can be your brand."

"You have a level of sophistication in the Saskatchewan agricultural
community that could accommodate this perhaps more readily than other
jurisdictions in Canada and around the world," added Konecsni.

"If we can be the first people with a brand of a product that is seen
as the best … if we are allowed to ship to other provinces, that means
Saskatchewan will be a leader in that industry.

"And if you're going to be in something, I always like to be a the
front of the parade rather than at the back."
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MAP posted-by: Matt