N.B. working group suggests 19 as minimum age to buy cannabis
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017 11:26AM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 21, 2017 7:30PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- The legal age limit for recreational marijuana use in New Brunswick should be set at 19, a provincial working group recommended Wednesday in a report that also calls for sales to be handled by something similar to a Crown corporation.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau said the province's Liberal government will consider the recommendation, but he said the actual age limit could be pushed higher.
The New Brunswick Medical Society has already recommended the legal age should be at least 21.
Before a final decision is made, a select committee of the legislature will spend the summer gathering public input before reporting this fall, Boudreau said.
"It's a tight time frame," he said. "We want the select committee of the legislature to be doing their things over the next several months to be able to report back to government in the fall because we need to be ready by July 2018."
That's when new federal rules kick in.
Boudreau said he supports the idea that a Crown corporation, similar to NB Liquor, should handle all sales.
"This is essentially a brand new industry starting in New Brunswick, and to make sure that there are tight controls and oversight and supervision, a Crown corporation model is the model that is being recommended," he said.
However, Boudreau said cannabis would not be offered for sale within liquor stores.
"I think there have been very strong arguments made that they should certainly be different points of sale. It wouldn't be within liquor stores, even if it was a Crown corporation and even if it was managed by NB Liquor. It would be a different store front," he said Wednesday.
Green party Leader David Coon said NB Liquor promotes the sale of alcohol, and he worries it might also do the same with cannabis.
"We need a significant effort to discourage use of cannabis among youth and those with mental illness," he said. "We need to see an education campaign that strongly takes on the issues of public health risks, especially targeted at youth."
New Brunswick's medical society has said the government needs to approach any public education programs with caution.
"While the public certainly needs education on cannabis, including driving while high and the co-use of cannabis and alcohol, it must take such education to the public in a way that does not unintentionally encourage its use," the society said in a report released earlier this year.
Boudreau said cannabis sales could be good for the provincial economy, but his main concern is dealing with health and public safety.
He said the cost of health and safety measures may actually offset what's gained through cannabis sales.
"Yet on the economic development side, on the job creation side and on the private sector investment side, I think there is some potential there to see some benefits for the province of New Brunswick," he said.