Is Newfoundland and Labrador ready for legal pot, whenever that may be?

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Is Newfoundland and Labrador ready for legal pot, whenever that may be?

The timeline for when cannabis will be legalized in Canada has become more ambiguous recently, which has some asking whether Newfoundland and Labrador will be ready whenever it happens.

Despite initial plans to have people legally toking up starting July 1, federal legislation is still being debated in the Senate which means that date is very likely to be moved ahead.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the governing Liberals have been touting July 1 as its target date to have everything in place. But Wednesday in the House of Assembly, PC Opposition leader Paul Davis said the province is flying by the seat of its pants and doesn't have a solid plan for whenever Ottawa announces legalization.

"Absolutely not ready. The only thing we're ready for is a supply," Davis told CBC following the House session. "There are so many other aspects of the legalization of marijuana that they haven't done."

Davis points to fines and administration, and questions around drugged driving and pricing as issues that haven't yet been addressed by the province.

'We're ready', says justice minister

Newfoundland and Labrador Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said despite Davis's attempt to make it seem like the province is responsible for the delay of legalization, he insists it's entirely in Ottawa's hands.

"The Opposition would love to say, 'Oh, this is your fault,' but we're the same as every other province,'" he said.

Parsons said despite the possible delay, the provincial government is still working on the assumption that it will be July 1.

While Parsons personally thinks the actual date is more likely to be this fall, his department is sticking to July 1 as the target so that they're not caught off guard.

"I think that's wise. It's better to be ready and have the date change than think the date's going to be changed and not be ready," he said.

Advice from potential merchant

Governments might be scrambling to get ready for the legal sale of pot, but at least one aspiring weed merchant says he's ready to do business as soon as he's approved.

Thomas H. Clarke will find out in the next 10 days if he's approved for a retail cannabis license from the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). After that he said he'll need two months to get his shop open to start selling.

"I think we're ready, I know I'm ready," he told CBC. "As soon as the federal government gives us the OK, I feel like the province should be able to start that, whatever date that is."

Clarke wants to see legalization happen as soon as possible, and if he could give one piece of advice to government ahead of it happening, it would be to direct police to be sensible when it comes to enforcement of impaired driving.

He said cannabis dissipates in a user's bloodstream within a half hour of smoking it, so trying to test and convict people who've consumed it more than 30 minutes ago will create a logistical nightmare in the courts.

"When it comes to people who are smoking and driving, if you're caught red-handed, then you're caught red-handed," he said.

"If you're not caught red-handed and it takes more than 20 minutes to do that swab test, anyone will be able to get it thrown out of court."

Invest in tech, not the courts

Clark said government should take all that money it would spend trying, and failing, to convict people of drugged driving, and instead invest it in making better tests and new approaches.

"Put money in technology, and by legalizing it you'll have the industry players, the tax money, the government and all of these people who come together and find out a better way," he said.