A working group studying how New Brunswick approaches the legalized sale of marijuana is trying to strike a balance between public safety and economic opportunity, the chair says.
The Liberal government's working group is exploring a range of issues as it awaits further direction from the federal government.
"For the government of New Brunswick, its concern is it wants a balance," said Mike Comeau, chair of the working group on the legalization of cannabis and also the deputy minister of public safety.
The federal Liberals have said they will introduce legislation by summer to legalize marijuana. A working group reporting to Ottawa late last year suggested leaving most of the regulation with the federal government, but letting the provinces decide a few issues, including the minimum age for possessing the drug.
The provincial group studying the issues is made up of civil servants from Health, Finance, and Justice and Public Safety, as well as officials from the New Brunswick Liquor Corp. and Opportunities NB.
- Recommendations on legalization of marijuana in N.B. expected by fall
Although the group is essentially in a waiting stage, until the federal bill is introduced, Comeau said he expects it will be up to individual provinces to decide what the retail side will look like, whether to adopt a proposed minimum age of 18, and whether to get involved in any other regulations.
A legalized regime will also have to take into account any concerns about public health and safety but also take advantage of potential economic opportunities from legalization, he said.
He said he expects marijuana to be legalized and issues sorted out by 2018.
Getting it right
"It is essential that we strike the right balance by ensuring protections for the well-being of families and children, and address health and public safety concerns," Health Minister Victor Boudreau said in a statement released earlier this month.
"We need to get this right."
"We're just building some questions around that report."
The New Brunswick working group is expected to release a report this summer and a final report in September.
"What we're doing now is essentially … reviewing best practices," Comeau said. "There's a literature review. It's speaking with experts and reaching out to stakeholders that might want to have some input."
Asked if there will be a chance for public input, Comeau said he expects either the working group or a government committee will meet with the public in spring or summer.
"There's also that waiting game," he said. "We really do need to see a bill or an announcement from the federal government."