HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html N.S. Government Still In Legal Pot Haze
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2017
Source: Truro Daily News (CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 The Daily News
Contact:  http://www.trurodaily.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1159
Author: Jim Vibert

N.S. GOVERNMENT STILL IN LEGAL POT HAZE

There are concerns Nova Scotia isn't moving fast enough to deal with
new standards regulating the legal sale of marijuana, and it could
mean other provinces get a leg up. Nova Scotia's plans to get into the
pot business are eerily reminiscent of a late-20th century,
would-be-pusher - distinguished by stealth and uncertainty. No one
knows what, if anything, the province has done to prepare for July
2018, when cannabis is legal in Canada, and the province's vague
statements are neither illuminating nor reassuring.

That's in sharp contrast to New Brunswick, where preparations are
public and well-advanced. Nova Scotia is behind Newfoundland too,
where public consultations are complete and a report has been
produced, and Prince Edward Island, which is conducting consultations
now.

Premier Stephen McNeil promises to have the rules and regulations in
place on time, but he's been contradicted by Nova Scotia's chief
medical officer of health.

When the federal government introduced its legalization bill in April,
Robert Strang said Nova Scotia would need at least two years to get
ready, taking the province into the spring of 2019, almost a year
after cannabis is legal.

Provinces determine how, where, when and who sells and uses legal pot.
Any province that doesn't have its act together on time will be out in
the cold until it gets done. Consumers would have to buy pot online,
or from illegal sources. There would be no provincial revenue from
sales, and control would be limited to bare bones federal
restrictions.

Nova Scotia's handling of this file is amateurish. Three departments
are involved along with the government's political wheelhouse. All
these outfits are running madly off in no discernible direction.

The premier says he wants a regional Atlantic approach to weed
regulation, and claims the other three Atlantic premiers are in full
agreement. Meanwhile, a New Brunswick working group produced and
published a proposed model to govern all aspects of sale, use, and
regulation of pot, which offers nothing to suggest it contemplates
revision to accommodate the concerns of other provinces.

Further, New Brunswick plans to introduce legislation this fall,
likely to mirror the working group's proposals. So, if there's going
to be regional consistency, New Brunswick is calling the shots, with a
legal age of 19, pot smoking limited like tobacco is now, and a Crown
corporation as the sole retailer.

The dozens of storefront operations that have sprung up in
anticipation of an open market would still be illegal and certainly
shut down. Governments eliminate their competition.

It's disappointing that Nova Scotia is the wrong end of the horse on
the most visible opportunity in years to harmonize regulations across
the region. The province has taken the lead in other efforts to
co-ordinate economic regulations across Atlantic Canada.

It's conceivable that Nova Scotia will get its ducks in a row before
the deadline. The government promises public consultations in the
fall, but admits it has a lot of work left to do.

The spring election in Nova Scotia has been suggested as an excuse for
the province falling behind. That's an admission that the government
can't walk and chew gum. With the legalization deadline looming,
senior bureaucrats should have kept the work moving while the
politicians were courting votes.

As with so many simple questions put to the Nova Scotia government,
the answer to this one was mostly bosh.

"As we continue to work toward the legalization of cannabis, the
health and safety of Nova Scotians, especially children and youth, is
our top priority. Cannabis legalization is complex and will have
significant impacts on provinces, territories and municipalities.
There is a lot of work to do and many decisions to make in the coming
months around the distribution model, health and safety, taxation,
regional alignment and the legislative steps we need to take to be
ready for July 2018. We will be looking at various options and will be
consulting with Nova Scotians this fall."

That penetrating glance into the obvious came 48 hours after the
question - "where does Nova Scotia stand . . . in getting ready for
legalization?" and supports the conclusion that the honest answer is
"nowhere."

Given that virtually all the work - except "regional alignment" - has
been done by the neighbours, who will be "taking the legislative
steps" while Nova Scotians are having their first say on the matter, a
co-ordinated, consistent regional approach really means we'll just let
New Brunswickers decide the pot rules for Nova Scotians. The
alternative is the slacker province - Nova Scotia - telling the keener
province - New Brunswick - to back off. A kind of high school approach
to interprovincial relations.

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Jim Vibert grew up in Truro and is a Nova Scotian journalist, writer and 
former political and communications consultant to governments of all 
stripes.
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MAP posted-by: Matt