The details of the Cannabis Act mandate cannabis production regulation as the purview of the federal government, while granting individual provinces the freedom to regulate distribution, advertising, and consumption. Early this June the New Brunswick Medical Society delivered a report to the Premier and a host of government bodies with a number of recommendations that they suggest could reduce the harm they imagine may come with the legal sale of recreational cannabis.
Highlights of the report include the suggestion that all sales of cannabis throughout New Brunswick be conducted through a Crown corporation, similar to the province’s approach to alcoholic beverages, but with a few caveats. Throughout the report the goal of harm reduction is emphasized—one recommendation is that the provincial government should weigh the cost of current alcohol, gambling, and tobacco use, and how it affects healthcare, education, and social systems, as a means of predicting the possible social cost of cannabis sales.
The report goes on to suggest that if the Crown’s ‘NB Liquor’ is to be the province’s sole distribution outlet, “that monopoly must be overseen differently than the current sale of alcohol”—specifically with public health and safety as the chief priority. The first major change proposed for the business model is to remove profit targets from the equation. This would resolve the logical conflict between potentially aggressive marketing strategies and the general interest of public health.
Other recommendations made in the report include: separating the sale of cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco, so no two would be sold in the same location; implementing the same marketing bans and plain packaging initiatives that apply to tobacco; and raising the minimum age for legal sale to 21 for both cannabis and tobacco.
Attention was also paid to the controversial topic of impaired driving. The report suggests that the New Brunswick Police Association partner with the Department of Public Safety to ensure law enforcement have adequate training and tools to detect and deter drivers under the influence of cannabis, as well as working with groups like MADD Canada and the Department of Motor Vehicles to develop education initiatives and the implementation of a cannabis-centric feature within the province’s driver training and licensing processes.
On the more bureaucratic side of things, the NB Medical Society also made some suggestions as to how the province might spend the potential new revenues from the proposed Crown monopoly. After the first year under the new system, they recommend doubling the province’s stake in the New Brunswick Contraband Enforcement Unit to expand its focus on cannabis. Also suggested is that the province invest in additional training for law enforcement and retailers, specific to the aforementioned social cost issues they anticipate might come along with legal recreational sales.
The recommendation of a Crown-owned monopoly for distribution ties in well with New Brunswick’s existing investments in cannabis production. In August of 2016, the provincial government announced a four million dollar funding deal with NB-based licensed producer Zenabis to build a production facility in Atholville, with the goal of bringing jobs to the region.
As for the province’s potential distribution strategy, the NB Medical Society intends to have representatives attend all scheduled public hearings as the provincial government works to develop a regulatory structure in advance of the federal legalization timeline.
Featured image by Brendan Ross.