Manitoba Ready to Discuss Legalization

The Liberals’ plan for cannabis legalization haven’t made any movement forward in the less-than-a-week since the party was elected, but it hasn’t stopped speculation from stakeholders across the country, including the Manitoba government.

“I think it’s timely that we had a national discussion — that we get to the table, we roll up our sleeves and make sure this is done in a sure-footed and safe way,” said Manitoba Attorney General Gord Mackintosh.

Mackintosh said details about the plan need to be discussed with the new federal government, including if it will be the province or Ottawa that is in charge of regulation.

“There are questions about how much will be allowed, what age are they talking about, all of the questions about labelling and even about taxation … so when we hear the plan, we’re going to come to the table,” Mackintosh said.

Currently, only licensed producers are legally allowed to grow and distribute cannabis under Health Canada‘s medical guidelines, and some expect these grow operations to be prepared to supply a new recreational market.

Manitoba has one licensed producer, the Winnipeg-based Delta 9 Bio-Tech.

“What has been made very clear from the Liberal side is that we are going to see a tight system of regulation. I wouldn’t think we’re going to see an entirely legalized product, where cannabis is removed from the CBSA [Controlled Drug and Substance Act] and people are growing their own,” said Delta 9 Bio-Tech vice-president John Arbuthnot.

“I think we will see something very similar to alcohol and to tobacco where we will see, again, a tightly controlled system of production likely at the federal level and then provincially regulated distribution.”

Arbuthnot suggested controls similar to the commission that oversees the province’s liquor and lotteries, or a system of regulated stores.

“The province may [even] take a hands-off position and say this is going to be regulated by the municipalities, so it may be up to the city to determine what types of stores and where those stores can operate.”

Vancouver is currently in the midst of processing 176 applications to run dispensaries in the city.

Arbuthnot expected that, even with legalization, the need for separate medical cannabis won’t go away. For some patients with immune disorders, Arbuthnot said the medical cannabis system can sterilize the product in a method that ensures their health is not compromised.

“I think there will always be a medical marijuana system here in Canada as well as perhaps a legalized recreational system,” Arbuthnot said. “Those two systems may mirror each other, although we will likely see pretty clear delineation.”

Retired Winnipeg homicide detective Bill VanderGraaf said he has been growing cannabis himself since 2008 to deal with post-traumatic stress.

VanderGraaf said legalizing cannabis would lift a burden from local law enforcement.

“I think the Winnipeg police will be able to put their resources to those issues that are important,” VanderGraaf said. “They’ll be able to concentrate on the people that are really doing harm out there.”