Premiers release list of recommendations for Ottawa to address pressing issue in the wake of cannabis legalization
While progress is being made on the cannabis file, Canada’s premiers are calling on Ottawa to take bolder action to meet the demand for safe products, reduce illegal market activity and ensure provinces don’t continue to lose money.
This meeting of minds follows the recently wrapped get-together in Saskatoon, Sask. from July 9 to 11. On the docket of the Council of Federation Summer meeting was a discussion of the successes and shortcomings of cannabis legalization since last October.
The federal government, which is responsible for licensing cannabis producers, was urged to quickly address the ongoing inadequacy of cannabis supply. The supply issue affects the ability for provinces and territories to meet the demand for safe products and reduce illegal market activity, notes a press release issued by the Government of Saskatchewan following the meeting.
Addressing this outstanding concern, as well as others, would be “in support of the health and safety of Canadians,” the statement notes.
The call to deal with supply issues is hardly new. Since legalization of recreational cannabis last fall, a number of provinces have reported supply shortages, a situation that has resulted in delays and and lower-than-anticipated sales.
“The one thing I can assure you is that we’re not going to continue to lose money like this,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said recently.
Higgs has been vocal about how a lack of supply contributed to the province witnessing a $11.7 million loss related to legal cannabis sales. On April 30, New Brunswick released its unaudited financial results, which showed a $4.6 million loss for the first quarter, down from $7.1 million in the previous quarter. The province, however, is projecting a loss of $11.7 million at year end.
Higgs told Global News in an interview on May 1, 2019 that the province would not continue to lose money on the cannabis industry, arguing the “model must change as taxpayers cannot be on the hook for this.”
Added Higgs: “Is their value for us to own it? Should we be looking at another model? Because we’re not going to continue to lose $12 million, and that was only in the first six months,” the premier said at the time.
The meeting press release notes that, so far, provinces and territories have been responsible for significant aspects of cannabis legalization at substantial cost, required to regulate distribution, retail and oversight with “very tight” federal timelines. Beyond urging Ottawa to address supply issues, the premiers called on the federal government to address the following:
- increase leadership in reducing the size and scope of the illegal market through strategies aimed at bringing producers and consumers into the legal market, and at enforcement against illegal sales, particularly online;
- in light of coming legal sale of edibles, extracts and topicals, provide clear guidance on Health Canada regulations for products that are considered “appealing to youth”;
- support provinces and territories in public awareness and education campaigns related to the health risks of the new classes of cannabis; and
- commit to fully addressing provincial and territorial resource requirements for drug-impaired driving enforcement and prosecution, including further development and approval of useful and reliable tools to assess drug impairment, train police services and create prosecution aids.
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Written by Ashley Keenan