September 26, 2017

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Manitoba asks Ottawa for clarity on pot legalization

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Provincial Justice Minister Heather Stefanson </p>

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Provincial Justice Minister Heather Stefanson

The government of Manitoba wants Ottawa to provide "further clarity" on how exactly it will support provinces in implementing Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act.

In a Tuesday press release, Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson described cannabis legalization as "a significant shift in public policy with many challenges for the provinces and territories to address."

Road safety is an area of particular concern, said Stefanson, who expects that topic to be front and centre when justice ministers from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments meet in Vancouver from Sept.13 to 15.

Stefanson told the Free Press she's particularly concerned about ensuring roadside testing devices are available to police officers, as well as ensuring proper training for police.

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The government of Manitoba wants Ottawa to provide "further clarity" on how exactly it will support provinces in implementing Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act.

In a Tuesday press release, Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson described cannabis legalization as "a significant shift in public policy with many challenges for the provinces and territories to address."

Road safety is an area of particular concern, said Stefanson, who expects that topic to be front and centre when justice ministers from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments meet in Vancouver from Sept.13 to 15.

Stefanson told the Free Press she's particularly concerned about ensuring roadside testing devices are available to police officers, as well as ensuring proper training for police.

"And so I would fully agree with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in their statement today that they would like to see a postponement of the date of legalization," she said, referring to that organization's Tuesday presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, which is holding a weeklong hearing on Bill C-45. The police called for the federal government to consider postponing legalization in order to give law enforcement more time to prepare. Legalization of cannabis is currently scheduled to take place by July 2018.

Along with Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, Stefanson is co-chair of a provincial-territorial working group exploring various aspects of cannabis legalization including drug-impaired driving, taxation, regulation, production and distribution.

That working group is due to present its findings to provincial and territorial premiers by November 1, according to Stefanson's press secretary. The premiers will then decide whether to formally ask the federal government for a delay in legalization. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has previously called for legalization to be delayed by one year.

"Our primary concern regarding the legalization of marijuana is the health and safety of Manitobans," said Stefanson in Tuesday's press release.

"The federal government must recognize that rushing into something of this magnitude presents tremendous risks, which is why our working group will continue to seek clarity on federal support while provinces make progress on numerous policy areas related to Bill C-45."

The government of Manitoba has not yet determined exactly how legalization will work in the province. An expression of interest that sought industry input on how to produce, distribute, and sell cannabis in Manitoba closed last Friday. The expression of interest drew "nearly 60 submissions," which are now being evaluated by the Department of Growth, Enterprise and Trade, according to the press release.

solomon.israel@freepress.mb.ca

@sol_israel

Read more by Solomon Israel.

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