HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Time To Clear Smoke On Manitoba's Pot Plan
Pubdate: Tue, 12 Sep 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Contact: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/send_a_letter
Website: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/502
Page: A6

TIME TO CLEAR SMOKE ON MANITOBA'S POT PLAN

THE reaction to last Friday's announcement of the Ontario government's
plan for sales and regulation of legalized cannabis was, at best, mixed.

The document, promoted as "a safe and sensible approach to the retail
of recreational cannabis," didn't seem to make all that many people
completely happy.

At the plan's unveiling in Toronto, Ontario Finance Minister Charles
Sousa said marijuana sales will be limited to a monopoly of cannabis
stores under the control of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario
(LCBO), with 40 free-standing locations slated to open in time for the
July 1 pot legalization date and a total of 150 to be established by
2020.

In those stores, marijuana will be sold from behind the counter, a
throwback to the way liquor was dispensed in Manitoba stores until the
early 1970s. Customers won't be able to peruse product displays and
choose their weed on a self-serve basis.

The LCBO also will establish a mail-order distribution system,
however, that will allow consumers to have legally purchased marijuana
delivered to their homes.

Not surprisingly, the approach is very unpopular with the proprietors
of the large number of illegal marijuana "dispensaries" currently
operating in Ontario. They feel they're being frozen out of the
soon-to-be-legal marketplace and that the government's plan will
encourage, rather than eliminate, black-market pot sales.

Also opposed to the Ontario Liberals' plan are many recreational
users, who are unhappy that sales will be limited to marijuana in
plant form. Unlike the approach in several U.S. states that have
legalized marijuana, the wide variety of pot edibles - including baked
goods and candies - will not be part of Ontario's retail strategy.

The legal age for marijuana consumption in Ontario will be 19, the
same as for tobacco and alcohol in that province (and higher than the
federally mandated minimum age of 18). Recreational pot use will be
legal only on private property, not in public places or in vehicles.

What wasn't clear from last Friday's announcement is how much
legalized marijuana will cost and how much provincially imposed tax
will be included in the price.

Among the cheerleaders for Ontario's new pot plan is the Ontario
Public Service Employees Union, whose members will staff the LCBO-run
retail outlets.

Public discussion of the Ontario plan will certainly continue, in a
lengthy and perhaps sometimes heated manner. And what's important for
Ontarians as Canada moves closer to the inevitable legalization of
marijuana is that they have something to consider, to study and to
make the target of their concerns and objections - or their support.

In Manitoba, the marijuana situation remains distinctly
hazy.

When asked if the Ontario plan might provide guidance or ideas as this
province moves toward legalization, Manitoba Justice Minister Heather
Stefanson would only say, "All options are on the table at this
point... We'll continue to work with stakeholders in the community to
develop a system that works best for Manitobans."

It's safe to say the Ontario system, with all its flaws, limitations
and restrictions, is not what the Manitoba system will be. But it's
something. And with the days ticking by toward next year's
legalization deadline, it would be most helpful to Manitobans if the
provincial government here moved decisively - sooner, rather than
later - to unveil its strategy and let the people decide if it really
will be, as promised, the approach that works best for us.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt