New Brunswick's justice and public safety minister would like to see the minimum age for consuming marijuana set at 21 when the federal government establishes a legal recreational market countrywide. Stephen Horsman made this statement March 31 in a question-and-answer session with reporters after announcing that a working group has been set up to examine the legalization of cannabis.
The province's liquor control board and Department of Public Safety issued a joint press release yesterday, which said the government has set up a working group and has begun gathering intelligence on the cannabis industry throughout Canada and United States.
"The work that has been completed and the meetings already held by the working group have helped us gain a great deal of perspective on the marijuana industry in Canada as well as the United States," said Horsman. "The information collected has covered several aspects of marijuana legalization, including enforcement, regulation, taxation and distribution, which will help us make informed decisions on how best to move forward in a safe and responsible manner."
Province researching best practices in the U.S.
The drinking age in Canada is set 19 in most provinces (except for 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec) so it's unclear why the minister would suggest 21 as the minimum age. However, the release lists the many businesses and government agencies that the working group has already consulted, and many are in legal U.S. states, which all have a minimum age of 21.
There has also been some debate that the minimum age should be higher because of the potential impact of marijuana on the brain development of young people.
If this age restriction is being considered by New Brunswick, it could be the one discussed by other provinces too. According to the news release, Horsman has been working on this file with colleagues in federal, provincial and territorial government.
Moreover, Brian Harriman - President and CEO of NB Liquor - is chairing a subcommittee tasked with studying marijuana regulation for the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions (CALJ), a group representing the provincial and territorial liquor retailers.
A busy week on the marijuana file in the province
The New Brunswick government made a public announcement on the working group one day after it announced it would give up to $990,000 in payroll rebates for 113 jobs to OrganiGram - a Moncton-based medical marijuana producer that is expanding its operations with plans to enter the recreational cannabis industry.
"Our industry has the potential to be a once in a generation opportunity for growth and economic development as we move towards a recreational marketplace," said CEO Denis Arsenault.
Premier Brian Gallant also sees the job-creation potential in this growing industry.
"We are pleased to see more opportunities for people to work right here, in New Brunswick," said Gallant.