Legal marijuana on track for July but getting pot into stores could take longer

Could take three to four months for marijuana to hit store shelves

The Trudeau government insists it’s on track to legalize recreational pot in July — but whether that means it will actually be on sale by then is uncertain.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told senators Tuesday that provinces and territories have indicated once Bill C-45, the legislation setting up a legal cannabis regime, is given royal assent, they’ll need another eight to 12 weeks to prepare for retail sales.

READ: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

“Once we’ve reached royal assent, there’s going to be a transition period because we have to ensure that provinces and territories have the capacity to get the product into their shops,” she said later outside the Senate.

At the same time, Petitpas Taylor said: “We still feel very confident that we can meet our goal of July 2018. No one ever said July 1 or I never said July 1. But our goal of meeting July 2018 for me is still very much a realistic goal.”

However, she did not clarify when asked whether she means the goal is to have royal assent by then or to have cannabis actually on sale by then.

If the latter, that would mean the Senate would have to pass the bill by no later than the end of May — which seems unlikely given the depth and breadth of concern among senators about C-45 that was apparent during a rare two-hour grilling of Petitpas Taylor and two other cabinet ministers in the Senate chamber Tuesday.

One senator, independent Liberal Jim Munson, attempted to get some clarity, asking if the ministers were saying the actual sale of marijuana will not occur until eight to 12 weeks after July 1.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s response only further muddied the water: “Our goal is this summer in an orderly fashion with all the pieces sequenced in the right order so that they are effective.”

Conservative senators, in particular, are not keen on legalization but their Senate leader, Larry Smith, said Tuesday they won’t be obstructionist.

“I promise you, however, that we will give a voice to those in the Canadian public who have significant and valid concerns about the policy choice your government is making,” he said.

Smith argued that the government is proceeding too quickly and should not legalize marijuana before conducting an intensive public education campaign about the dangers of cannabis use on the developing brains of youths.

READ: Saliva test likely for marijuana impairment

Denise Batters, another Conservative senator, questioned the government’s argument that regulating cannabis will make it harder for young people to get access to it, pointing out that C-45 allows individuals to grow up to four plants in their homes.

Other senators raised concerns that legalization will encourage young people to smoke and increase the incidence of impaired driving.

But it wasn’t just Conservative senators who raised concerns.

Sen. Serge Joyal, an independent Liberal, questioned the government’s contention that legalization will push organized crime out of the marijuana marketing business. He pointed to a report that found almost half of 86 companies that have received Health Canada permits to grow marijuana are financed through offshore tax havens frequently used by organized crime to launder money.

Screening of such companies is insufficient to ensure “we’re not doing through the back door what we are trying to eliminate from the front door,” Joyal said.

Petitpas and Goodale — along with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Toronto Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point man on marijuana — repeatedly countered that most of the potential problems identified by senators already exist in Canada, where prohibition has led to cannabis use by young people that is the highest among developed countries and a market controlled entirely by criminals.

“Obviously, the current law has failed,” Goodale said.

“I’m frankly not prepared to leave the health and safety of our children in the hands of criminals,” added Blair, a former Toronto police chief.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Ry Cooder coming to Vancouver Island MusicFest

American music icon to play in Comox Valley July 14

Foot found near Victoria belonged to missing Washington man

No foul play suspected in death of Stanley Okumoto, 79

Greyhound cleared to end routes in northern B.C., Vancouver Island

Company says nine routes have dropped 30% in ridership in last five years

CVRD to decide on opening meetings with recognition of Indigenous territory

The board of directors will vote on the recommendation on Feb. 27

Salty situation for dog walkers at Millard Creek

The City of Courtenay is hoping to quickly resolve an icy situation… Continue reading

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

‘You just don’t know when someone has a challenge’

Wounded Warriors Run BC spreads awareness of mental health, hopes to raise $100,000

Canadian support split on Trans Mountain pipeline debate: Poll

Angus Reid poll surveying Canadians on pipeline stance finds no clear winner

Tired of ‘big city life’? One-stoplight town hosts contest to lure in city slickers

Contest by BC Rural Centre hopes to attract city folks to a small town in the Kootenays

Student protest outside White House a snapshot of American gun debate

Demonstrators take part in a student protest for gun control legislation in front of the White House

Feds can’t do much to fight fake news in Canada

Federal government can’t do much to fight fake news: Canadian Heritage documents

Canada’s Boutin wins silver in women’s 1,000 short track

Women’s 1,000-metre short-track speedskater Kim Boutin wins silver the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Thursday

Team USA beats Canada 3-2 on the shootout to take home Olympic gold

Americans win their first gold medal since 1998

Two Haida men detained for crossing U.S.-Canada border

Edenshaw and Frisby travelled from Alaska to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament

Most Read