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The latest dirt on Newfoundland and Labrador cannabis

marijuana in an indoor cannabis farm
Marijuana in an indoor cannabis farm -123RF Stock

Home growing expected to be addressed in House of Assembly this spring

Federal legislation, provincial legislation, contracts and regulation — there’s plenty still in the works when it comes to having legal, recreational marijuana in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the coming weeks, more will be said on growing your own cannabis and on Canopy Growth’s in-province production facility. More is also expected to be brought to the House of Assembly on marijuana in the workplace, and occupational, health and safety implications of legalization.

Growing it alone

An amendment to the Liquor Corporation Act in Newfoundland and Labrador at the end of 2017 gave the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) the ability to handle licensing, sale and delivery of cannabis in this province, but it did not address cultivation.

Proposed federal legislation — now with the Senate — would allow Canadians to grow up to four plants per household, from seeds purchased from licensed cannabis retailers.

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However, in Manitoba, the Safe and Responsible Retailing of Cannabis Act (Bill 11) was introduced in December and is set to prohibit in-house cultivation in that province.

A spokesman for the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII) said a decision hasn’t been made yet on the approach to home growing in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it is expected to be covered in the spring session of the legislature.

For its part, a spokesman for the NLC told The Telegram the Crown corporation has not made any final decisions on what will be included in its first product catalogue.

Single site for online sales

The NLC has made progress in brick-and-mortar retail. It has developed and issued a request for proposals, seeking retailers interested in selling recreational cannabis.

Looking online, legal cannabis products are being limited in Newfoundland and Labrador to anything sold through an NLC-approved website — just the one website to start.

As The Canadian Press reported on Feb. 12, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), through the subsidiary Ontario Cannabis Retail Corp., signed a deal with Shopify to use its e-commerce platform for online sales and mobile sales in that province.

Could Newfoundland and Labrador also seek out a third party for online sales?

“We are currently reviewing options for the online sales portal,” said the NLC spokesman, in response to questions this week. “If a decision is made to develop the site with an outside contractor, NLC will follow Public Tender Act procedures to secure a service provider.”

The Telegram was told online orders entered by a member of the public would be put to the government-licensed producer, who would then be responsible for the deliveries (Canopy Growth Corp., for example, is required to file a transportation plan with the government by March 31, addressing its live retail stores, but also transportation for online sales).

Delays and deadlines

Through an access to information request, The Telegram obtained a copy of the agreement between the NLC, the province and Canopy Growth Corp., as the first and — to date — only approved producer here supplying recreational cannabis products for Newfoundland and Labrador.

There were redactions, but the document — dated Dec. 7, 2017 — provides some of the detailed language around the essential elements, including the in-province production facility to be built by Canopy Growth.

The contract includes milestone dates, including that the company file for environmental assessment by the end of this month (March 31).

The contract stipulates the agreement can be terminated if legalization has not happened in Canada within two years.

But might the more immediate milestone dates be delayed?

“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not received any official communication from the federal government regarding a legalization date change. Until such time, we are still targeting July,” stated an emailed response to questions, from a spokesman for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation.

CBC News has reported, given federal requirements, it’s unlikely recreational cannabis will be legalized in Canada before early August.

The current legislative process does not include edible products, which are expected to be addressed in 2019.

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