Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2018
Source: Queens County Advance, The (CN NS)
Copyright: 2018 Media Transcontinental
Author: Lawrence Powell
Page: 7


Here's why there won't be any legal pot access in Queens County

When marijuana becomes legal across Canada July 1, Queens County
residents won't be buying any of the recreational drug from the local

In fact, they'll have to drive all the way to Yarmouth or Lower

If you're in the Annapolis Valley or Eastern Shore, you're also out of

Justice Minister Mark Furey introduced a cautious rollout of the sales
of cannabis in Nova Scotia Jan. 30 with only nine locations - four of
them in HRM - selling the product. Amherst, Truro, New Glasgow, Sydney
River, and Yarmouth are the only locations outside of the metro area.

He said the factors included in making the selections were based on
NSLC space available to be converted, the concerns around the
transition from an illicit drug to a recreational drug, and the asyet
untried business case for actual sales of legal pot.

And in a news conference, he repeatedly pushed the online purchase
option that will be available. There are no details yet on how that
will work.

Nova Scotians will, however, be able to grow up to four pot plants per

"The number of stores is one factor in the availability of a legal
recreational product," Furey said. "When you look at the online home
delivery element, when you look at one's ability to grow up to four
plants per household, and I believe as well the anonymity of public
purchase, these are all factors that have been considered."

He said the other piece of that is around a business model and the
uncertainty that exists in the first initiative to legalize
recreational cannabis.

"When I say that, I'm thinking specifically about the unknowns around
those who will purchase through a regulated stream," he said. "I'm
thinking about the onset of edibles into the future - 12 months from
now. The numbers, when you compare us per capita to other provinces
aren't unreasonable although visually one would say there are gaps. We
see that, but taking a measured approach to this, the availability
through the stores identified is one element of that supply chain."

Furey said there is no switch government is going to flip and
transition to the legal recreational market.

"This is going to take time. It will be progressive," he said,
reiterating the options of online home delivery of or to grow their

What the future holds

"We recognize that not everybody has access to high speed Internet,
but that online homedelivery option will still serve a purpose," Furey
said. "We also believe that there will be people who will grow their
own product, so in this approach we're trying to address those
circumstances. But, as I said earlier (in the press conference),
there's a lot of unknown in the space of how busy these retail models
are going to be and what the uptake will be on that online delivery
and what percentage of the population will actually grow their own

The next year, he said, will be a "period of analysis."

"We'll see what the future holds when it comes to what the retail
model and one's ability to access recreational cannabis will be going
forward," he said.

"We've said from the outset our priorities are public safety,
particularly around our youth, and our ability to mitigate the illicit
market and transition consumers to a legal recreational market. We
believe the steps that we are taking will help us get there. That
differs from the approach other provinces are taking. We believe this
approach is the first approach that will help us meet our

Medical marijuana advocate furious

"I personally was blown away to see the limited options people will
have as far as retail outlets they can go to purchase cannabis," said
Debbie Stultz-Giffin, who heads up Maritimers Unite for Medical
Marijuana Society.

"Absolutely shocked. If they think they're going undermine the black
market in this province by only offering nine retail outlets, most of
them based in liquor corporations, they're sadly, sadly mistaken."

One of the outlets being refurbished to sell pot is the former Clyde
Street NSLC in Halifax that will reopen to sell cannabis

Stultz-Giffin, from West Dalhousie in Annapolis County, would have to
drive two hours to access an NSLC outlet that sells cannabis - and
another two hours home to purchase cannabis she expects will be well
in excess of black market prices.

Stultz-Giffin said the online purchase option may do something to
allow rural Nova Scotians access to marijuana, but she's not convinced.

"Sitting back and looking at the whole scenario, many of the people
who consume cannabis on a recreational basis do so last-minute
purchase on a Friday night," she said. "It's an economically deprived
province and most people live paycheque to paycheque, so how are they
going to be able to purchase cannabis online in advance of perhaps a
weekend event. It just doesn't seem like a practical solution at all
when most people would be looking at at least a two-day delivery time
I would imagine."

Medical use

While the planned roll-out will put many recreational users at a
disadvantage in most of the province, those who use cannabis for
medical reasons will be just as impacted and their health will suffer,
she believes.

"Anybody who has to drive those overwhelming distances to purchase
cannabis will end up being disadvantaged by the whole process," she
said. "The last I heard there were only eight per cent of the doctors
in this province authorizing patients to use cannabis. So patients
that go to other doctors who refuse to sign their licenses will again
be denied access if they have to make that long of a trip to purchase
their medicine."

John Percy, secretary of MUMM, said nine outlets may be sufficient for
Halifax but the province would need 40 or 50 NSLC outlets to handle
initial demand.

"If they want to compete with 'organized crime,' whatever that is,
this is the wrong way to go about it," Percy said. "The province
ignored every single recommendation we made to it. It appears we are
not alone in that. They ignored everybody's input. I think they have a
preconceived notion and were just toying with us all."

About control

Percy said private dispensaries work well but the province couldn't
get a handle on how to control and regulate them.

"That requires work," Percy said. "The method they have chosen
requires no real effort. It's always been about control and nothing

Percy said MUMM met with deputy ministers from health, justice, and
with the chief medical officer for Nova Scotia.

"We were told that finance was the lead agency on this file," he said.
"That should tell you all you need to know about how they would direct
their efforts."

Asked about the online purchase option, Percy was not

"Online is fine if you have a credit card," he said. "I don't and I
know many people who also don't have a credit card. It also depends on
supply and strain availability. Are we going to rely on the
'expertise' of government bureaucrats as to what strains they will
carry? There is nothing to stop me from buying online from a site
outside Nova Scotia. How will that help their bottom line?"

The outlets

The following are the locations announced by Furey Jan.

- -- Amherst - 126 South Albion St. -- Dartmouth - 650 Portland St. -- 
Halifax - 5540 Clyde St. -- Halifax - 3601 Joseph Howe Dr. -- Lower 
Sackville - 745 Sackville Dr. -- New Glasgow - 610 East River Rd. -- 
Sydney River - 95 Keltic Dr. -- Truro - 6 Court St. -- Yarmouth - 104a 
Starrs Rd.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt