Marijuana can only go on sale months after federal law passes

Ottawa | Reuters — Recreational marijuana in Canada will only go on sale a few months after it is legalized later this year because the new retail system needs time to start working properly, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said Tuesday.

The Liberal government says the new law must be in place by July 1 this year, which would make Canada the first Group of Seven country to adopt such a policy.

Some of Canada’s 10 provinces, which are responsible for actually selling marijuana, complain they do not have enough time.

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“They told us they need eight to 12 weeks following (adoption of the law) for preparatory activities to occur, such as preparatory movement of product from licensed producers to distribution and retail outlets,” Petitpas Taylor told the Senate.

The Liberals say legalization is needed to keep the drug out of the hands of underage users and reduce related crime.

“The current regime has not worked,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the Senate during a question-and-answer session on the proposed law.

As well as complaining about what they see as an excessively ambitious timetable, the provinces also say they need federal money to meet the extra costs of enforcing the new rules.

Ottawa and the provinces and territories settled a disagreement last December on how to split the revenues from a proposed federal tax on marijuana sales.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould dismissed concerns that more time was needed.

“I would submit that the opposite is true. Provinces and territories have in fact been working expeditiously,” she told the Senate.

Reporting for Reuters by David Ljunggren.

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