Province seeks to send ‘minor agents’ into liquor, pot sales field

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The Pallister government is paving the way for the hiring of minors to keep booze and cannabis out of the hands of underaged Manitobans.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2020 (744 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Pallister government is paving the way for the hiring of minors to keep booze and cannabis out of the hands of underaged Manitobans.

A bill introduced in the legislature earlier this month, and released to the public Thursday, would enable the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba to hire “minor agents” to help it enforce the law.

The main thrust behind Bill 60 is to establish clear requirements for third-party companies delivering pot and liquor.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Newly-proposed legislation would enable the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba to hire "minor agents" to help it enforce the law. The bill provides for the employment of minors to work hand in hand with inspectors to catch vendors suspected of selling to underage persons.

“With continued growth in the delivery industry, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we want to make sure that liquor and cannabis products are delivered safely and responsibly,” Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said.

However, the bill also provides for the hiring of minors to work hand in hand with inspectors to catch vendors suspected of selling to underage persons. It would permit a minor working for the LGCA to attempt a purchase of a regulated product.

In an interview, Cullen said other jurisdictions (British Columbia and Saskatchewan) are already enabling minors to work with regulators to police the selling of cannabis and/or liquor.

“It’s just a method to make sure that people are playing by the rules and not selling product to those underage,” he said Thursday.

Cullen said he does not expect the LGCA would require many young people to join its inspection team. Parental consent would be needed for any minor to be hired, training would be “rigorous,” and the young recruits would need to demonstrate “good judgement,” he said.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont questioned the government’s priorities in involving young people to enforce the rules around liquor and cannabis.

“This is one of the biggest wastes of money I’ve ever heard of in my life. This is completely ridiculous,” he said.

“It’s another asinine way for this government to pretend they’re doing something when they’re not.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the government could accomplish its goals simply by hiring somebody who is of age but looks younger.

“Why are they trying to hire a 16-year-old and send them into a weed store? Never mind the fact that if a charge was to be brought in court that minor might have to testify,” he said.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents Liquor Mart employees, said the bill is a “weak smokescreen” to justify the province’s plan to privatize liquor sales.

“Research has shown that the best way to prevent sales to minors is to invest in the public delivery system. In Manitoba, Liquor Mart employees are trained and educated in preventing illegal sales to minors, and don’t have a profit motive to look the other way when minors try to buy alcohol,” she said in a statement.

Amanda Creasy, LGCA director of strategic services and public affairs, said the organization doesn’t keep statistics on how often vendors are caught selling to minors.

She said employing minors would give the authority another tool to target those who would sell to minors. Now, the only way it can do this is by catching someone in the act.

Any minors hired — and the inspectors assigned to work with them — would receive “a lot of training,” she said, and safety would be “top of mind.”

Minors would not be placed in risky situations. “We wouldn’t be sending kids into bars at three in the morning or things like that,” Creasy said.

Meanwhile, Bill 60 (Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act) makes it clear there would be no imbibing allowed for minors selected to work for the LGCA.

“A minor or young person employed or engaged by the authority must not consume liquor or cannabis while performing their duties,” the bill says.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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