Legal marijuana on track for July but getting pot into stores could take longer

Could take three to four months for marijuana to hit store shelves

The Trudeau government insists it’s on track to legalize recreational pot in July — but whether that means it will actually be on sale by then is uncertain.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told senators Tuesday that provinces and territories have indicated once Bill C-45, the legislation setting up a legal cannabis regime, is given royal assent, they’ll need another eight to 12 weeks to prepare for retail sales.

READ: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

“Once we’ve reached royal assent, there’s going to be a transition period because we have to ensure that provinces and territories have the capacity to get the product into their shops,” she said later outside the Senate.

At the same time, Petitpas Taylor said: “We still feel very confident that we can meet our goal of July 2018. No one ever said July 1 or I never said July 1. But our goal of meeting July 2018 for me is still very much a realistic goal.”

However, she did not clarify when asked whether she means the goal is to have royal assent by then or to have cannabis actually on sale by then.

If the latter, that would mean the Senate would have to pass the bill by no later than the end of May — which seems unlikely given the depth and breadth of concern among senators about C-45 that was apparent during a rare two-hour grilling of Petitpas Taylor and two other cabinet ministers in the Senate chamber Tuesday.

One senator, independent Liberal Jim Munson, attempted to get some clarity, asking if the ministers were saying the actual sale of marijuana will not occur until eight to 12 weeks after July 1.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s response only further muddied the water: “Our goal is this summer in an orderly fashion with all the pieces sequenced in the right order so that they are effective.”

Conservative senators, in particular, are not keen on legalization but their Senate leader, Larry Smith, said Tuesday they won’t be obstructionist.

“I promise you, however, that we will give a voice to those in the Canadian public who have significant and valid concerns about the policy choice your government is making,” he said.

Smith argued that the government is proceeding too quickly and should not legalize marijuana before conducting an intensive public education campaign about the dangers of cannabis use on the developing brains of youths.

READ: Saliva test likely for marijuana impairment

Denise Batters, another Conservative senator, questioned the government’s argument that regulating cannabis will make it harder for young people to get access to it, pointing out that C-45 allows individuals to grow up to four plants in their homes.

Other senators raised concerns that legalization will encourage young people to smoke and increase the incidence of impaired driving.

But it wasn’t just Conservative senators who raised concerns.

Sen. Serge Joyal, an independent Liberal, questioned the government’s contention that legalization will push organized crime out of the marijuana marketing business. He pointed to a report that found almost half of 86 companies that have received Health Canada permits to grow marijuana are financed through offshore tax havens frequently used by organized crime to launder money.

Screening of such companies is insufficient to ensure “we’re not doing through the back door what we are trying to eliminate from the front door,” Joyal said.

Petitpas and Goodale — along with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Toronto Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point man on marijuana — repeatedly countered that most of the potential problems identified by senators already exist in Canada, where prohibition has led to cannabis use by young people that is the highest among developed countries and a market controlled entirely by criminals.

“Obviously, the current law has failed,” Goodale said.

“I’m frankly not prepared to leave the health and safety of our children in the hands of criminals,” added Blair, a former Toronto police chief.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

WATCH: Canadian Finals Rodeo only two weeks away

Mayor calls CFR an opportunity to showcase Red Deer

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

Alberta readies itself for cannabis sales with 17 stores (for now) and a new provincial website

Sylvan Lake Pirates still searching for first win

The Pirates fell 13-5 to the Morinville Kings on Oct. 14

Sylvan Lake Lions pounce on Raiders

The Lions beat Lindsay Thurber 51-0 at the afternoon game on Oct. 13

Policies for “fitness to work” needed in new cannabis-friendly world

Instead of a drug and alcohol policy, businesses should consider a fit for work policy

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

After 50 years, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer retiring

The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Parole denied for convicted killer-rapist Paul Bernardo after 25 years in prison

Paul Bernardo plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison.

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

UPDATE: Aurora Rafer has been found unharmed

RCMP have a man in custody and continue to investigate

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Most Read