The Government of New Brunswick announced the formation of a working group focused on the legalization of cannabis today. The group’s mandate will be to work with federal officials and their colleagues in other provinces as the Federal Government moves towards the legalization of marijuana for adult use.
Membership of the working group includes those from the Department of Justice, New Brunswick’s Chief Health Officer, the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation, the Department of Finance, and Opportunities New Brunswick, which bills itself as the “first point of contact for local and foreign businesses looking to grow, expand or locate” in New Brunswick.
A similar working group was announced last March with then Public Safety Minister Stephen Horseman. Horseman is now Minister of Families and Children. At the time, Horseman also said New Brunswick was considering an age of 21 set by the province.
The Federal Legalization Task Force’s recommendations last winter proposed a federal age limit of 19, with provinces being allowed to set the limit higher, as they can with alcohol and tobacco. Provinces and territories are also expected to manage the distribution of cannabis products.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau told the Sackville Tribune-Post Tuesday morning that the Federal Government’s commitment to cannabis legalization will create challenges in the province, but it will also increase economic opportunities for the region.
“New Brunswick is already well positioned for the economic development opportunities that cannabis legalization will present,” said Boudreau. “However, it is essential that we strike the right balance by ensuring protections for the well-being of families and children, and address health and public safety concerns.”
This is not the first such provincial working group to be announced. Other provinces have also been forming similar working groups. Nova Scotia has formed at least two, PEI has expressed interest in setting the age of consumption higher than the age of 19, Saskatchewan is looking at issues of impaired driving, and municipal groups across the country have been preparing and forming working groups and task forces of their own.
As the Federal Government prepares to introduce legislation this spring to regulate marijuana for adult use, the issue of provincial and municipal control will emerge as one of the major challenges in presenting a cohesive national strategy.
The Federal Government is expected to establish broad rules similar to how they manage tobacco or alcohol, with specific age limits or possession caps or production standards, with more nuances at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels in terms of how cannabis products are distributed within the provinces and territories, where retail stores can be set up, where personal and possible commercial production can be allowed, where tax revenues are distributed, and much more.
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