Legal marijuana on track for July but getting pot into stores could take longer

Could take three to four months for marijuana to hit store shelves

The Trudeau government insists it’s on track to legalize recreational pot in July — but whether that means it will actually be on sale by then is uncertain.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told senators Tuesday that provinces and territories have indicated once Bill C-45, the legislation setting up a legal cannabis regime, is given royal assent, they’ll need another eight to 12 weeks to prepare for retail sales.

READ: B.C. government marijuana stores will compete with private sellers

“Once we’ve reached royal assent, there’s going to be a transition period because we have to ensure that provinces and territories have the capacity to get the product into their shops,” she said later outside the Senate.

At the same time, Petitpas Taylor said: “We still feel very confident that we can meet our goal of July 2018. No one ever said July 1 or I never said July 1. But our goal of meeting July 2018 for me is still very much a realistic goal.”

However, she did not clarify when asked whether she means the goal is to have royal assent by then or to have cannabis actually on sale by then.

If the latter, that would mean the Senate would have to pass the bill by no later than the end of May — which seems unlikely given the depth and breadth of concern among senators about C-45 that was apparent during a rare two-hour grilling of Petitpas Taylor and two other cabinet ministers in the Senate chamber Tuesday.

One senator, independent Liberal Jim Munson, attempted to get some clarity, asking if the ministers were saying the actual sale of marijuana will not occur until eight to 12 weeks after July 1.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s response only further muddied the water: “Our goal is this summer in an orderly fashion with all the pieces sequenced in the right order so that they are effective.”

Conservative senators, in particular, are not keen on legalization but their Senate leader, Larry Smith, said Tuesday they won’t be obstructionist.

“I promise you, however, that we will give a voice to those in the Canadian public who have significant and valid concerns about the policy choice your government is making,” he said.

Smith argued that the government is proceeding too quickly and should not legalize marijuana before conducting an intensive public education campaign about the dangers of cannabis use on the developing brains of youths.

READ: Saliva test likely for marijuana impairment

Denise Batters, another Conservative senator, questioned the government’s argument that regulating cannabis will make it harder for young people to get access to it, pointing out that C-45 allows individuals to grow up to four plants in their homes.

Other senators raised concerns that legalization will encourage young people to smoke and increase the incidence of impaired driving.

But it wasn’t just Conservative senators who raised concerns.

Sen. Serge Joyal, an independent Liberal, questioned the government’s contention that legalization will push organized crime out of the marijuana marketing business. He pointed to a report that found almost half of 86 companies that have received Health Canada permits to grow marijuana are financed through offshore tax havens frequently used by organized crime to launder money.

Screening of such companies is insufficient to ensure “we’re not doing through the back door what we are trying to eliminate from the front door,” Joyal said.

Petitpas and Goodale — along with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Toronto Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s point man on marijuana — repeatedly countered that most of the potential problems identified by senators already exist in Canada, where prohibition has led to cannabis use by young people that is the highest among developed countries and a market controlled entirely by criminals.

“Obviously, the current law has failed,” Goodale said.

“I’m frankly not prepared to leave the health and safety of our children in the hands of criminals,” added Blair, a former Toronto police chief.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Kettle Valley Steam Railway holds train ride of terror

Summerland tourist train will have Halloween-themed events

Penticton Vees alumni has NHL jersey retired by Anaheim Ducks

Paul Kariya played with the Penticton Vees from 1990-1992

Ballet Kelowna to kick off 16th season with pair of premiers

Fresh off performances in Beijing and Toronto, company will perform at KCT Nov. 16 and 17

Man charged with attempted murder in Oliver back in court

Andrew Bradley Miller pleaded guilty to charges of resisting arrest and failure to appear in court

Bittersweet ending for Penticton soccer player with UBC-O Heat

Bret Depner was honoured at his last UBC-Okanagan Heat soccer game

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

World Junior Hockey fever hits Vernon

Vipers spice up floor ball demonstration at OK Landing School

Shuswap refugee family settles into new, more hopeful life

Father of 10th Syrian family to come to Salmon Arm says learning English, work, top priorities

RCMP seek missing Vernon man

Michael Ramsey, 49, was last seen Oct. 21

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read