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ALAN HOLMAN: Transformative moment missed with marijuana sales

Survey suggests Islanders in no rush to light up.
(File Graphic)
Survey suggests Islanders in no rush to light up. (File Graphic)

P.E.I. is going build and/or rent new separate premises to sell the provincial pot

Corporate Research Associates, the Halifax outfit that regularly does opinion polling in the region, recently released a poll that could not have brought much joy to the region’s governments.

Perhaps more specifically, to the provincial treasurers. The poll released this week shows that in spite of all the hype and hoorah surrounding the legalization of marijuana, it may not be the money pit the politicians are expecting.

According to Don Mills, the chairman of CRA, the poll indicates that Islanders are less interested in buying pot than any of their fellow citizens in the region. He expects “the market for marijuana on the Island will be quite modest.”

poll shows that only 15 per cent of Islanders intend to occasionally purchase pot. Things are a bit better in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where 20 per cent of the people intend to occasionally make a purchase. And in Newfoundland it’s nearly 25 per cent.

According to the poll, the people in Queens and Kings County are twice as likely to buy the occasional toke as the good citizens of Prince County are.

If Mr. Mills and his polls are correct, then maybe the Atlantic governments were hallucinating a little bit when they were dreaming of all the extra tax revenue that would be gushing in.

It also makes one wonder why, when the four Atlantic premiers met in Halifax earlier this week they got their knickers in a knot over concerns about being able to obtain an adequate supply of weed when sales are legalized on July 1.

However, should there be not enough pot in the kettle, they know who to blame - Ottawa!

“It’s their timeline, their permitting,” - it’s their responsibility to ensure the supply is here,” said Nova Scotia Premier, Stephen McNeil at the end of the meeting. “We’re going to meet our commitments in making sure this product becomes legal.”

The Canadian Press reported that the premiers will try to come up with a common price per gram. Premier McNeil said they want to avoid the cross-border issues that currently plague alcohol sales.

And how are they going about doing that, you may ask? Did they even think about a jointly owned and operated cannabis co-op to efficiently market the marijuana?

The premiers could have easily created a new agency. There are no existing protocols, there are no ingrained, provincial traditions standing in the way. When it comes to marijuana sales, there are no existing bureaucracies impeding anything. A regional agency could have marketed this new product in the most cost effective way, generating the highest possible return to the owners - the taxpayers.

But, no! The premiers couldn’t keep their parochial, greedy little fingers (or minds) off of what they think is going to be, a big fat juicy cash cow. For all their pious talk about inter-provincial co-operation, tearing down trade barriers, reducing red-tape, etc., etc., they collectively and individually couldn’t see past their own small political noses.

P.E.I.’s approach is classic. The Island government is going to sell cannabis through the Liquor Control Commission, but not through the existing liquor stores. No, P.E.I. is going build and/or rent new separate premises to sell the provincial pot. Clearly there’s not enough shelf-space in the existing liquor stores to handle a big, bulky, product like cannabis. A gram of cannabis is huge. It might be as big as. . . maybe your thumb.

So, we need new weed stores. Would anyone know of any good Liberals who might have a place the government could rent for such a purpose? Are there any good Liberals around that might have a piece of land, where a good Liberal contractor could build a building to house a bunch of good Liberal poll workers while they peddle the milk from this new cash cow.

And when all that’s been siphoned off, how much will be left for health, or education?

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

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