After being revealed as the Liberal government’s leader on its promise to legalize cannabis, MP Bill Blair has said liquor stores may be the best place to sell the product.

The former Toronto police chief said existing provincial liquor programs were an ideal model to base recreational cannabis sales on in order to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.

“I think there are certain modifications or adjustments that we may have to make for cannabis as opposed to alcohol, but I think there is already a strong system in place,” Blair said. “We have pretty robust systems of regulation for other intoxicants in this country, mostly overseen by the provinces and so we’ve already got a model, a framework we can build on here.”

According to Blair, the current liquor model used across the country makes it difficult for youth to access that substance, and should serve the same purpose for cannabis.

“You’re going to come up against a government employee who’s got regulations to enforce and is going to ask for identification and if a person’s under age, they’re not going to be able to buy that,” Blair said. “And that’s a far better way to regulate access [to marijuana] for kids than leaving it up to some criminal in a stairwell. Frankly, in most urban centres across this country, it is far easier for a kid, an under-aged youth, to acquire marijuana than it is to acquire alcohol.”

Blair has been tasked to craft the government’s policy on legalization, working with a body made up of representatives at the federal and provincial level that has yet to be assembled.
Blair didn’t say how long he expected the process to take, citing a need for “wide consultations” with public health, law enforcement and provincial and territorial counterparts before a bill is created.
Blair said, from his experience as a police officer, the Liberal approach to legalization is the right one for the country.

“I think the public is open to a smarter approach to this particular issue and just doing nothing, and allowing the criminal law to be more or less ignored…I don’t think we have much prospect of succeeding in trying to address the things that concern us about marijuana, particularly use by youth…with the current reliance on the criminal sanction,” Blair said. “I am actually quite confident that we can do a much better job through strict regulation.”