Article by Rob Breakenridge, Calgary Herald
It is quite remarkable how in less than two years we have gone from the criminalization of cannabis to serious conversations as to whether those selling the drug are providing an essential service. Mind you, much of our new reality can be similarly described..It has already been largely accepted that liquor stores should and will remain open as essential services through however long this economic shutdown lasts. Prince Edward Island was the exception, as it announced the closure of all 17 liquor stores in the province last month (the government there relented somewhat last week, allowing a single liquor store to reopen)..So long as it can continue to be safe to allow such businesses to remain open, it makes sense to do so. We needn’t get moralistic and judgmental about the fact that, for many, legal recreational drugs can help alleviate some of the stress that has now been infused into our daily lives. That may not be the healthiest way of coping with stress, but the issues that we’d end up confronting if we were to close off access to alcohol and cannabis would be far worse..Furthermore, though, the production and retail of alcohol and cannabis represent jobs and economic activity that are, unfortunately, in short supply at the moment. That should give us additional pause when it comes to shutting down this aspect of the economy..Ontario has made the decision to go down a path that Alberta should avoid. Last week it was announced that Ontario cannabis stores would now be considered “non-essential” businesses and would be closed for 14 days..For one thing, it is illogical and unfair to treat cannabis retail stores differently than liquor stores. If one is allowed to stay open, then the same should go for the other. Certainly from a public health perspective, steering cannabis users to the black market seems unwise..Fortunately, it appears as though Alberta is going to continue its sensible approach on this question. On March 27, the province confirmed that liquor and cannabis stores are being treated the same as grocery stores and may remain open and that does not appear to have changed..But just because Alberta is taking a more sensible approach than other provinces doesn’t mean that we can’t make improvements in our own policies..For starters, if liquor stores are allowed to deliver directly to their customers, then the same should apply to cannabis retailers. As it stands now, cannabis retailers are prohibited from making deliveries..But the same logic applies here: if a store is allowed to remain open, and they have the option of delivering directly to customers, thus negating the need for those customers to leave their homes in the first place, then we should be encouraging that, not preventing it.