There will be a way to purchase legal weed “in every corner of this country” — likely through a federally regulated system online — regardless of any limitations provinces may decide to put in place, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a live conversation with VICE Canada on Monday night.
In a forum on cannabis legalization that included former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, the government’s point person on the issue, Trudeau said provinces and territories that might choose different approaches to selling marijuana much like different regimes around alcohol were “important” partners.
That leaves provinces to figure out whether weed will be sold in dispensaries or by liquor control boards.
“The provinces have well over a year now,” he said. “Fifteen months to put in place their system that suits them. If a province chooses not to, there will still be a way through the federal regulated system for people in every corner of this country to purchase marijuana.”
The much-anticipated legalization bill tabled last Thursday puts the federal government in charge of licensing producers and making sure the supply is safe.
That leaves provinces to figure out whether weed will be sold in dispensaries or by liquor control boards, and to set a minimum age for someone to purchase it. The minimum age must be no less than the federal legal age of 18, however.
All this will have to be figured out before legalization comes into effect, which will likely be on or before July 1, 2018.
Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has said there’s “lots of work ahead” for the provinces. His government has, in the past, suggested that selling marijuana alongside alcohol in provincial liquor stores may be the best approach.
“Social responsibility is going to be a very important aspect of our deliberation.”
“Social responsibility is going to be a very important aspect of our deliberation,” he told reporters last week. “Just like alcohol and tobacco, even though they’re legal, we know they’re products with harmful consequences and we spend a lot of time and resources in getting that message across.”
Alberta’s Attorney general Kathleen Ganley said the timeline was “definitely ambitious,” and Premier Rachel Notley agreed the deadline would be tough to meet.
The Alberta government plans to get public input on the age of majority, and where it will be sold.
“We’re going to try very hard to meet those time limits, and if we don’t, we’ll have to go back and say, ‘You know what? We need more time,’” said Notley.
The Quebec government, meanwhile, has taken issue with Ottawa’s strategy on the file, and have asked for a pledge of support — and money — from the federal government on the issue.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba have both taken issue with being saddled with the responsibility for actually putting in place the distribution model. They remain vague about how they intend to actually make the drug available — but are the two likeliest suspects to impose stifling restrictions on how marijuana can be made available.