Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg

Manitoba Looks to Private Sector to Help Roll Out Marijuana

Updated on
  • Province issues expression of interest for market partners
  • Canada’s move to legalize sales feels ‘rushed,’ minister says

Manitoba is studying whether to involve the private sector in rolling out sales of marijuana in the Canadian province -- a contrast to Ontario’s plan to sell the drug in government-run stores.

Manitoba has issued an expression of interest for potential partners in the pot industry, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said Tuesday at the Bloomberg Canadian Fixed Income Conference in New York. The province will gauge interest in the production, distribution and retail sales of marijuana, according to the tender, which closed earlier this month.

Friesen said the government should delay its July legalization date as the process feels “rushed.” There’s no set sobriety test and no solid view at what age pot smoking should be considered legal, for example, he said.

Most provinces have yet to clarify how they plan to sell marijuana. Ontario was the first province to announce its plans, which call for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to open as many as 150 government-run pot stores by 2020.

Manitoba doesn’t view marijuana as a big revenue source and is making the health and safety of citizens a top priority, Friesen said. Quebec’s Finance Minister Carlos Leitao made similar remarks at the Bloomberg conference and said his province’s response will be driven by efforts to limit the negative public-health effects of cannabis.

‘Generate Gazillions’

“We are not approaching the legalization of pot as a new source of revenue, as some sort of a way that is going to generate gazillions of dollars,” Leitao said. “This is a public health issue, and that’s from the perspective that we will address this question.”

Ontario’s plan is in part meant to curb the proliferation of more than 100 illegal dispensaries that have cropped up across the province, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said at the conference. Ontario will be working closely with the federal government to ensure the province’s costs are recovered and young people are protected, he said.

“We’re trying to meet demand,” Sousa said. “Illicit activity will continue even after this; the question is how much can we curb and control.”

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