New Brunswick government preparing for marijuana to be legal as early as July 2018

OTTAWA • The New Brunswick government says it’s aware that the Trudeau government will soon announce legislation to legalize marijuana that could be in force as early as July 2018.

The province is currently readying itself to decide how pot will be distributed and sold in the province with officials stating on Monday that New Brunswick has had an “ongoing dialogue” with Ottawa and awaits final details to be revealed shortly.

Word that the federal government will introduce legislation the week of April 10 to legalize pot comes amid another public declaration by the province that pot provides “key opportunities for growing the provincial economy.”

The Gallant government continues to stress that it plans to pursue the industry.

The province’s economic development Crown corporation is now the latest to issue its intention to seize on a looming opportunity.

“In light of the announced intention of the federal government to legalize recreational marijuana, an entirely new sector will become available to the economy,” Opportunities NB stated in a release that highlights the marijuana sector as part of the province’s economic growth plan.

“With the marijuana industry potentially transitioning into the mainstream economy, there will be numerous opportunities for growth, innovation and job creation,” said Economic Development Minister Francine Landry. “By partnering with the private sector and the federal government, New Brunswick will be able to solidify its foothold in a rapidly growing industry, which will in turn create employment and diversify our economy.”

July 2018

Public Safety Department spokeswoman Elaine Bell said on Monday that the province expects federal legislation shortly and that a working group of senior officials within government continues its work.

“We have been in ongoing dialogue, and are aware that a bill will be tabled this spring and it could be in force as early as July 2018,” Bell said in an email. “The working group on cannabis legalization looks forward to the details of the bill that will be tabled, as it prepares recommendations to the provincial government on the legalization of cannabis by this fall.

“We’ve been in ongoing dialogue with federal colleagues and have been aware that the federal government intended to introduce legislation this spring.”

Sources have confirmed to The Canadian Press that the government will introduce legislation the week of April 10 to legalize pot.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Monday that the Liberal government has not decided how to tax marijuana, but is instead focused on making sure it stays out of the hands of children and criminals.

Morneau said the question of taxation hasn’t really been on the government’s radar, despite hopes that it will generate hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars in new revenue.

The only mentions of marijuana in last week’s federal budget included $9.6 million redirected over five years toward public education and monitoring, and that any future taxes on pot would change over time.

Provincial role

It is expected to be up to New Brunswick to set a minimum age to buy marijuana, where it will be sold within the province, and for how much.

The Gallant government announced earlier this month a working group of senior officials to recommend by fall a model for the distribution and retail sale.

They’re to consider what age should be adopted for cannabis possession, which model for wholesale distribution and retail is best for New Brunswick, as well as what, if any, restrictions or regulations should be imposed by the provincial government beyond federal laws.

The group that includes NB Liquor and Opportunities NB will first release an interim report this summer.

A final report is due by September 2017.

Cabinet will then decide on how the province handles the legalization of marijuana.

A federal task force on cannabis legalization and regulation released its report in Ottawa last December, listing more than 80 recommendations for the federal government to consider in legalizing pot.

Among its top recommendations were that marijuana and alcohol should not be sold in the same location. It also recommended that the federal government set a minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana and then leave it to the provinces to set a higher minimum age if they want to.

It added that recreational pot should be sold through storefronts and mail-order sales and that production should be monitored with a “seed-to-sale tracking system” to prevent diversions to the black market.

Pursuing pot

The New Brunswick government said in a recently-released growth plan that the move “will significantly expand the industry across Canada.”

“Some provinces will take advantage of this opportunity to foster the creation of new production activity and value-added, specialized product development,” reads the report. “In addition, there are numerous supply chain opportunities such as testing, research and development and other services.”

The New Brunswick government announced last year that it was giving up to $990,000 to Moncton medical marijuana company OrganiGram through payroll rebates.

Premier Brian Gallant was then on hand at an announcement in August that saw the province provide a loan of $4 million to medical marijuana company Zenabis to build a medical marijuana facility in Atholville.

A course teaching medical marijuana production is also slated to be added to the curriculum at the province’s community college in 2017.

Opportunities NB is continuing the province’s push.

“This strategic location, in conjunction with burgeoning technology and innovation sectors, can help position the province for success in the cultivation, distribution and management of this new market,” it said in a release.

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