The province appears to be keeping details of its business plans for selling legal pot in P.E.I. close to its chest for the time being, promising more specifics in the coming months.
The Opposition Progressive Conservatives pressed for more details on government’s plans, announcement last week, to sell legal cannabis in government-run, standalone stores operated by the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission.
On Friday, Finance critic Darlene Compton questioned Finance Minister Allen Roach on what the start-up costs would be for these stores. She also wanted to know how many stores will open in P.E.I. and what the projected revenues will be for the province?
Roach acknowledged officials at the commission have been working on a plan for the rollout of legal cannabis sales, but said the specifics are still being developed.
“We have identified a general set of plans of what the location will look like and we will be going out looking for the cost, obviously, for square footage on those locations, and then we’ll determine where those locations are going to go,” Roach said.
“What we announced (Thursday) was just the initial framework of what this is going to look like.”
Compton said she understands plans must be carefully developed, but asked whether the province had done any study or analysis on its approach.
After all, the fact this was coming should have been no surprise to the province, Compton noted.
She pointed to statements attributed to Charlottetown MP Sean Casey at a town hall meeting he hosted on the issue of legal cannabis in October where he noted the imminent legalization of marijuana was not only a 2015 federal election promise but has been also making its way through legislation in Parliament ever since.
Roach argued the province was forced to wait until the federal legislation was closer to reality before taking any major steps on the file.
“It still had to go through federal legislation, bills had to be passed, and until such time as we saw what the federal legislation was going to look like, we had to wait to see that before we put our legislation into place.”
Opposition MLA Sidney MacEwen, meanwhile, was critical government did not hold public meetings before coming up with its plans for regulating and selling legal pot in P.E.I.
“The community has been talking about it nonstop, and the only chance they’ve had to talk about it is filling out an online survey. It’s ridiculous. We should have public consultation on this,” MacEwen said.
Roach said government felt this would be the best way to get as many responses as possible and to allow for anonymity of respondents.
But MacEwen challenged Roach and Premier Wade MacLauchlan to table all information regarding private meetings government has held on legal cannabis in addition to input gathered from the survey.
“We’ve got lobbyist legislation that’s coming to the floor of this house this sitting. I’m curious … will the minister commit to bringing all that information back so we can see who is trying to take advantage of government in this idea?”
Roach says the only people he’s met with on the issue were solely concerned about safety concerns and the education that will accompany the legalization of marijuana.
He told the legislature the province does not consider legal cannabis as a new revenue source for government, but rather that it will likely take a few years before it will break even. Requests for proposals will be issued in the coming months, he added.