Federal Government Playing Safe With Marijuana Sales

Article by Jen Skerritt and Josh Wingrove, Winnipeg Free Press

Liberal MP Bill Blair a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

As investors flock to Canada’s burgeoning marijuana sector, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signalling recreational pot sales aren’t imminent.

Liberal MP Bill Blair — the former Toronto police chief leading Trudeau’s legalization effort — confirmed a bill is due in Parliament this spring, but it won’t be the last hurdle as ample regulatory work remains. The federal government will take its time and work with provinces, territories and cities to build a framework and develop specific regulations, he said.

The government is also looking for ways to control production, distribution and consumption of legalized marijuana, while testing it for quality and keeping it out of the hands of minors, Blair said.

“We will take as much time as it takes to do it right,” Blair, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s justice minister, said in an interview last week. “I’m pretty reluctant to suggest a specific time frame, frankly, because I don’t know how long this will take in each of our 10 provinces and three territories.”

Blair’s comments come as Canada’s nascent marijuana industry balloons, with investor optimism being fuelled by analyst estimates that recreational sales could start as early as 2018.

The government’s plan to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 “could pave the way for the legal sale of recreational cannabis by 2018,” Canaccord Genuity analysts Matt Bottomley and Neil Maruoka said in a November research note. Canada’s recreational pot industry has the potential to reach $6 billion in sales by 2021 if legalization occurs along “expected timelines,” according to the note.

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