Uncertainty surrounds N.B. government’s pot plan
After sealing a deal with a third marijuana producer, New Brunswick says it's become the first province to secure a full supply of cannabis ahead of legalization next July. But the news is being met with a mixed reaction and more questions.
On Monday, the province added a third company to its list of cannabis producers, inking an memorandum of understanding with Zenabis promising 4 million grams of weed. That’s expected to fetch as much as $40 million on the market.
A similar deal with producers in Moncton and Fredericton add another 9,000 kilograms of pot to the supply, but some groups aren't sure it'll bring the payout the province is hoping for.
“Government should not count their chickens before they hatch,” says Kevin Lacey, Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Rarely do governments get the type of revenue they think they're going to get. We've seen that in other jurisdictions.”
Lacey says it’s important for government to get things right the first time.
“If the government taxes too much, the result will be a growing black market, which will cost the government and taxpayers a lot more to deal with down the road,” he says.
Monday's announcement also brought promise of up to 450 jobs over the next two years at Zenabis. But the University of New Brunswick’s Mike Farnworth says you need to question the quality of those jobs, and how many potential employees are already working elsewhere before judging economic impact.
“Does it stimulate the economy in some valuable way? I have some hesitation in thinking it will, in that the unemployment rate might not change,” says Farnworth.
With a provincial election scheduled just three months after the proposed legalization date, Mount Allison University professor Mario Levesque says the Gallant government has positioned itself well.
“This is the largest type of industry to come along in a while,” he says. “I don't think it's a 'lose' type of situation for the Gallant government. I think if anything really goes wrong, they can blame the Trudeau Liberals, that they brought it out too quickly, that they did not give the provinces enough time to prepare or to adjust in terms of policing or anything else that may be needed.”
The groups agree the province, and all of Canada, will be in unfamiliar waters come July 1. And while the picture is getting clearer, many questions still remain as the clock ticks down to Canada Day.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.