Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn't clarified where marijuana will be sold once his government legalizes it nationwide, but he has hinted that strains could be stocked alongside spirits in the country's liquor stores. And one province - New Brunswick - is leading the way in preparing the country's liquor stores for the challenges of handling cannabis sales.
On Mar. 6, Adam Huras of the Telegraph-Journal reported that Brian Harriman - President and CEO of NB Liquor - has been busy preparing for the sale, distribution and regulation of legal marijuana in his own province and abroad. According to Huras, Harriman is chairing a subcommittee on the issue for the Canadian Association of Liquor Jurisdictions (CALJ), a group representing the provincial and territorial liquor retailers.
"And as such (I) have been involved in meetings on the subject of marijuana legalization," Harriman told the Telegraph-Journal in an emailed statement. "These meetings are focused on understanding the potential impacts of federal legalization. NB Liquor is currently working with other liquor jurisdictions from across Canada to gain insights into what the other provinces are contemplating."
But nothing is certain yet, according to Rowland Dunning, the executive director of CALJ: "My favourite phrase is that 'we are instruments of government policy,' and if they decide they want marijuana in liquor stores, then we'll do our best to make it happen," he told the Telegraph-Journal. "We're listening to what the premiers are talking about, we're listening to what Bill Blair is saying and not saying."
CAJL studying Colorado and Oregon markets
And Dunning is also participating in fact-finding ventures: the CALJ is currently taking trips to legal states such as Colorado and Oregon to study the legal market. They are also studying the "gray market" dispensaries in British Columbia - storefronts that are providing medical marijuana illegally. And they are consulting with Vermont, which is busily working toward becoming the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature.
"We didn't want to have something dropped on us and have to do something quickly," Dunning said.
But this news might be crushing to activists and advocates who oppose letting liquor stores handle marijuana sales:
"When you walk into the liquor store, you don't see posters on the risks of using that product," Alex Abellan - founder of National Access Cannabis - told Civilized. "Whereas, when you walk into NAC, you do see those posters. The emphasis needs to be on safe dispensing."
Advocates oppose selling alcohol alongside cannabis
Jamie Shaw - President of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, thinks that selling cannabis alongside liquor will create more public health problems: "A lot of people are using cannabis to get off of alcohol, so that isn't a very good message to send," she told Vancouver Metro.
Instead, she wants the government to use the "gray market" dispensaries as a retail model.
"It makes the most sense to utilize the existing distribution system to sell cannabis in a legalized context," she said in a statement. "CAMCD has developed a thorough certification program to support dispensaries in following best practices and providing the highest quality of care. This should be the basis of regulations for retail distribution."