Senior officials from three provincial government departments and two Crown corporations will "assess the risks associated with the legalization" of marijuana in New Brunswick and recommend the best distribution and retail sales model by September, the government says.
A group of officials from Health, Finance, and Justice and Public Safety, as well as the New Brunswick Liquor Corp. and Opportunities NB, will consider issues such as what age should be adopted for possession of marijuana and what, if any, restrictions or regulations should be imposed by the province, in addition to those imposed by the federal government.
"Your government recognizes the opportunities and challenges that will arise with the federal government's commitment to cannabis legalization," Health Minister Victor Boudreau said in a statement Tuesday.
The working group will provide "direction on a number of key decisions that will need to be made," Boudreau said.
"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," he said. "We need to get this right."
Interim report by summer
An interim report will be released this summer, based on a "literature review" and consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Child and Youth Advocate, the existing marijuana industry, medical and law enforcement officials, the tourism industry and employers, as well as other provincial governments and federal officials.
The Gallant government will also introduce a motion to establish a select committee of the legislature to study the issue. The committee's mandate will be set out by the motion, the statement said.
The provincial government has been working since 2015 to prepare for the federal legislation expected this spring to legalize marijuana.
NB Liquor and other provincial liquor boards have suggested their stores could serve as the retail outlets for marijuana.
Last fall, the president and CEO of NB Liquor, Brian Harriman, said one of the issues the province could be faced with is whether there should be two separate systems for medicinal use and recreational use, where marijuana products can be used and whether it can be grown at home.
Harriman said he expected the federal government would "play a large role" in production and licensing and would likely standardize the legal age.
The working committee members include Harriman, assistant deputy minister of public security Mike Comeau, acting chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell, the Department of Finance's chief operating officer of agency relations and corporate services, Pat Steeves, and Steve Milbury, senior director of special projects for Opportunities New Brunswick.