REGINA — The Saskatchewan government says the sale of legal cannabis will be handled by the private sector with government oversight but it’s still mulling over a minimum age of consumption.
Gene Makowsky, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, says the authority will issue about 60 retail permits to private operators in as many as 40 municipalities and First Nations communities.
Makowsky said the government opted to let the private sector handle sales because it would have been too costly for the government.
“The cost associated with running a public entity would be quite substantial,” he said Monday. “Those tens of millions of dollars that would be required upfront, I’d rather see those go to schools and highways and roads in our province.”
Permits will initially go to places with populations of at least 2,500. Larger communities will be allocated additional permits. Retailers will have to pass a “good character” test similar to that required for the sale of alcohol, Makowsky said.
Eligible First Nations and municipalities will have the option to opt out of having a retail cannabis store.
“This is the respectful way to go.”
The final number of retail permits is to depend on the number of community leaders who decide they don’t want a retail outlet.
Saskatchewan has not yet set a minimum age for the use of cannabis, which is to become legal across Canada for recreational use on July 1. It also has yet to introduce a legal framework which would outline fines and specify whether cannabis consumed in the province would have to come from Saskatchewan.
The government has been criticized by the Opposition NDP for lagging behind other provinces in outlining a strategy for legalization. The governing Saskatchewan Party is in the midst of a leadership race to replace Premier Brad Wall, who announced his retirement last year.
Makowsky said the federal government has imposed “very aggressive timelines for the legalization of cannabis” and the government is working as fast as it can.
“We’re working very hard behind the scenes. We’re certainly not procrastinating,” he said. “We want to get it right.”
NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer said the government is taking too long to outline its plan, which makes it harder for communities and retailers to be ready July 1. The government could give a larger role to existing public institutions, she added.
Without a legal framework or minimum age, Monday’s announcement just raises more questions, she said.
“We’re still very much left in the dark.”
Source via The National Post