The Canadian government will introduce a bill to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana consumption next spring. But the framework for a legal marijuana market is already being hashed out by members of the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions (CALJ), a group representing liquor control boards in Canada's provinces and territories.
Adam Huras of The Telegraph-Journal is now reporting that the heads of country's liquor control boards recently met in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, to discuss potential regulations. The private summit involved 200 attendees, including provincial bureaucrats, policy experts, industry insiders and others involved in studying or regulating marijuana markets. The gathering was broken up into discussion panels covering various aspects of legalization.
Presenters included Denis Arsenault - CEO of the licensed marijuana producer OrganiGram; Corporal Shane Holmquist, who supervises the marijuana enforcement team of the RCMP's Federal Serious Organized Crime Section; and Steve Naraine, a specialist in cannabis botany.
Topics included Vermont's recent attempt to legalize recreational marijuana use, the marijuana market in legal states such as Colorado, and the illegal marijuana stores operating in Canadian cities like Toronto.
"The sessions were very informative and left attendees with much to contemplate," Harriman told The Telegraph-Journal in an e-mail. He added that the conference was held to help the heads of liquor control boards advise their provincial and territorial governments on what sorts of rules they should consider for regulating the marijuana market.
"Following the marijuana presentations and the panel discussion, the directors of the association of liquor jurisdictions met to discuss marijuana," he said. "The association working group is now going to collate and summarize our learnings to allow each of us to brief our respective governments."
The future remains uncertain
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said that the federal government plans to collaborate with provinces and territories when drafting the country's marijuana regulations. So the New Brunswick conference will likely play a crucial role in determining what the nation's recreational marijuana industry will look like.
The involvement of CALJ suggests that government-controlled liquor could play some part in the legal industry. But that role isn't clear yet. It could mean that marijuana sales are restricted to government-owned liquor retailers like Ontario's LCBO. That idea was endorsed last fall by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
However, OrganiGram CEO Denis Arsenault says that liquor control boards might only take a role in overseeing marijuana regulations, rather than handling distribution as well.
"I'm 100 percent in agreement that it should be managed as a program by the individual liquor control boards," Arsenault told Civilized in March 2016. "However, the term 'managed distribution' could take many forms. Is it sold in a liquor store? Is it store by a store licensed by the liquor control board? We [the country] need to have this dialog."
So we'll have to wait and see what the final framework will look like. But if nothing else, the summit shows that provinces and territories are showing serious interest in working with the federal government on legalizing marijuana.
banner image: Flickr / Erin Eve