On the heels of the New Brunswick Select Committee on Cannabis releasing its report to the government, the official Opposition has submitted its own document for consideration ahead of recreational marijuana becoming legal.
Throughout July, hearings were held in seven areas around the province in an effort to gather the opinions and concerns of New Brunswickers over the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The committee released its report last week which indicated most members were in favour of setting the age limit at 19, as well as handling sales through a crown corporation such as NB Liquor, among other topics which were outlined.
Chair Benoit Bourque referred to their role as “scribes,” note-takers with no mandate to make recommendations.
The Opposition disapproved of that description, seeing it as an attempt to limit their responsibilities.
“I feel that we should’ve been able to make recommendations,” said Opposition MLA Ross Wetmore.
The Opposition’s own report shoots down the idea of the province taking on the sale of marijuana saying it’s an unnecessary burden better fit for private dispensaries.
“NB Liquor has said that they want 20 to 26 stores,” he said. “That could put an exposure onto the province or the new crown corporation of up to $100 million.”
“There’s going to be a big risk,” Wetmore said.
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Bourque called it “a clear majority” of those in favour of the public distribution model, admitting it wasn’t unanimous across the board.
Similarly, the same was said about the age limit for consumption being set at 19.
The Opposition’s report recommends that before setting the legal age, further studies are required.
Recently, the New Brunswick Medical Society advised the limit should be 25 but were willing to see it set at 21, indicating the drug can cause negative effects to young users with developing brains.
“We’re recommending that the government does a study on the effect of marijuana on young adults, young users,” said Wetmore. “We’d like to see some good research done.”
“We’re going to be selling marijuana next July,” he said of the quickly approaching legislation. “I don’t believe we have any educational programs in place today.”
Although the Opposition recommends studying the possible negative effects of marijuana on young people, their report doesn’t provide an interim age restriction which could later be adjusted if data suggested it should.
Wetmore said their report isn’t an acceptance of the impending legalization of marijuana, but rather a list of how best to handle it.
“I’m not comfortable with legalizing marijuana as it is,” Wetmore said. “The party is certainly working to bring the best possible results forward on the legalization.”
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