WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says retail sales of marijuana will be done exclusively through private retailers when recreational use of the drug is legalized next July.
Pallister announced Tuesday some of the major points of the province’s plan for marijuana sales, which he says is aimed at cutting into the black market and keeping cannabis away from kids.
The government will maintain a wholesale monopoly, but private stores will sell the drug at a price they can set themselves.
Municipalities will have the right to ban marijuana stores if they want, cannabis will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol, and there will be private online sales as well.
The government is asking potential retailers to submit bids in the coming weeks, and says bids will be judged on storage security, distance from schools and more.
The Opposition NDP, as well as public-sector union leaders, have argued that sales should be done exclusively through government-run stores.
But Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said private retailers are the best way to meet demand.
“We know that businesses and entrepreneurs want to get in the game,” he said Tuesday.
Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says the province remains concerned about the federal government’s July 1 deadline. But she says the Manitoba plan ensures public safety by keeping pot out of the hands of kids.
“This model will keep the profits from cannabis sales out of the hands of gangs and organized crime by ensuring adequate supply and accessibility,” she said.
The province still has to work out other details, such as a minimum age for legal marijuana consumption.
Alberta has proposed setting the minimum age at 18 to align with the legal age for drinking in that province. It has not decided if it will allow marijuana to be sold through government-run or private outlets.
Ontario is planning to establish stand-alone government-run stores offering a set price.
New Brunswick has said it will also use a Crown corporation model, and a legislature committee has recommended the minimum age at 19.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press