Canadian Premiers Want Action From Ottawa on Cannabis

Premiers from across the country are telling Ottawa that they need quick response from the federal government to cannabis regulation.

At an annual Council of the Federation meeting last week in Whitehorse, provincial and territorial leaders pushed the Liberal government on their issues on legalization.

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister said he wants the provinces to all be in-step on cannabis regulation, as opposed to a series of different approaches across the country.

“There are issues in terms of public health, there are issues in terms of public safety, there are issues in terms of determination of distribution mechanisms and things like that,” Pallister said. “All of these issues have to be discussed and have been made an important priority by the federal government’s commitment to move.”

Cannabis wasn’t part of the official agenda, but Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne said the issue is a key public policy change the leaders needed to discuss.

British Columbia premier Christy Clark said cities and provinces are in limbo until Justin Trudeau’s government announces their plans.

Clark said cannabis dispensaries that have sprung up across Canada are worrisome to her. She called for the federal government to move quickly on the file before the businesses spread further, saying that criminals have opened the shops in a “grey area” of legality.

“These illegal dispensaries have become a real problem in Canada,” Clark said. “Nobody wants one in their neighbourhood, nobody wants one next to their child’s school, but they’re popping up everywhere.”

Clark said she has three major concerns over legalization, youth accessing recreational cannabis, product quality for consumers and the elimination of the “criminal element.”

“We need to see the federal legislation,” Clark said. “Then once we get through that we will build a system … that complies completely, but it will be focused on safety.”

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said his province already has a high record of driving under the influence of alcohol and is concerned with how to enforce cannabis impairment. Wall said the government is investigating practices from Colorado.

Prince Edward Island premier Wade MacLauchlan said he’ll be directly involved in the province’s cannabis policy as he also serves as the minister of justice.

“We’re following things very closely as they unfold,” MacLauchlan said. “We’ll be looking for the most effective way to deal with it.”