Canada: Cannabis And Your Community

Photo Credit: Adam Randell

Municipal leaders had the chance to discuss the legalization of cannabis and how it could impact their communities before closing out the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) Symposium May 5.

Sean Ryan, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation’s (NLC) vice-president of Regulatory Services and Social Responsibility, spoke at the Gander session to field cannabis questions.

“It’s probably the biggest societal shift I’ll see in my generation,” the retired law enforcement officer said about the July roll-out goal. “A lot of issues need to be met head on before welcoming product into the community.”

To get a sense of distribution interest, the NLC issued a request for proposals Feb. 20, for licensed cannabis retailers. There were 80 submissions received from across the province, and an announcement of successful applicants has been set for May 7.

But it doesn’t mean the applicants will receive a license just yet.

Ryan said the applicants will have to meet strict guidelines surrounding site inspections background checks, and merchandising, along with training and education before receiving approval to sell.

The initial retail framework estimated 41 licensed cannabis retailers throughout the province. This is based on catchment areas that would also feed outlying areas.

Retail would present itself in the form of individual locations, segregated shops at current locations, dedicated counters – a separate operation within existing retail – and convenience stores.

Ryan couldn’t say if licensing would be issued for all 41 locations, or what format applicants were looking into, but more information would be released May 7.

He added the NLC continues to develop programming for education and parental guidance to address marijuana use, and advertising and packaging will be done in a manner that is unattractive to youth.

Q&A exchange between municipal leaders and Sean Ryan, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation’s (NLC) vice-president of Regulatory Services and Social Responsibility

Q: How are municipalities going to be impacted? Specifically, bylaws, retail location, and enforcement within towns?

A: In terms of the licensing process, municipalities will play a significant role and have a great opportunity to speak to that, because they have to approve a business that’s going to operate within the community.

But as a part of the licensing process there is a three-week public notification required of all potential license users. Within that time frame anybody – citizen, municipal government or agency – can provide a contestation.

In terms of the model for (a specific community) I have no information on that.

Q: Established regions have a seller of cannabis, but was geography brought into this at all? Because a lot of these areas have a large geographic region.

A: This number, 41, and the allotment to a particular region isn’t carved in stone. We are very conscious of catchment areas, where people travel for groceries and necessities, but once again this is contingent on input received from communities.

Q: Other than flat business tax, what other tax revenue would be offered to municipalities?

A: In terms of taxes, it’s not something I’m in charge of.

Q: How are we transporting cannabis across the province?

A: Right now, within the medicinal cannabis realm, all shipments of product is done through Canada Post because of its reach. Canada Post will likely be the common carrier for cannabis throughout the province by all the licensed producers.

Q: Municipalities that get licensed sellers will see tax revenue and employment opportunities. For other areas, with no cannabis economic development, will there be revenue sharing?

A: In terms of revenue sharing, I’m not privy to information about that.

Q: There are liquor licenses for outdoor events; will there be licenses to accommodate cannabis?

A: This industry has got to grow and evolve, but it has to be done in a responsible way. In terms of the control mechanisms, it will be heavy to begin with because that gives us the allowance, if need be, to ratchet them back. But first and foremost, our commitment is controlling this product.