N.S. sets legal age for marijuana use at 19, names liquor agency as retailer

Pot will not be sold in stand-alone stores

Nova Scotia will set its legal age for marijuana at 19, and will distribute weed through its liquor commission, although those sales won’t be conducted through stand-alone stores as recommended by a federal task force.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said Thursday Nova Scotia believes selling pot through existing liquor commission stores would provide the appropriate level of control to ensure public safety.

“They have a social responsibility mandate and we trust their experience in selling restricted products,” said Furey. “The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission also has the infrastructure in place to support a province-wide retail operation.”

Related: Allstate’s UBI program moves into Nova Scotia

Neighbouring New Brunswick announced last month that people would be able to buy their legal marijuana at a subsidiary of the province’s liquor commission—a move in line with a recommendation made last year by the federal task force on cannabis legalization and regulation.

The task force said there should be no co-location of alcohol or tobacco and cannabis sales wherever possible, saying that appropriate safeguards should be put in place if co-sales couldn’t be avoided.

The approach to retail varies nationally, with Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador offering pot sales through private stores, while British Columbia will sell through a mix of private and public stores. Ontario intends to sell the drug in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, while Quebec plans to sell pot through its provincially run liquor board and also plans to open 15 marijuana stores by July 1.

Furey said he believes Nova Scotia’s plan aligns with what the task force said should happen when locations sell marijuana and liquor. He said the liquor commission can train and educate its staff and use clear signage to warn of the dangers of co-usage.

“That model of retail actually provides a level of control that the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission provides now through its employees in the retail of alcohol.”

Furey said details on online sales and the location of retail stores would be announced later.

Furey said Nova Scotia’s age restriction aligns the province with what’s happening nationally.

“This aligns with our legal drinking age, which all jurisdictions have done with the exception of Manitoba,” said Furey.

He said the province also accepts federal rules setting a personal possession limit of up to 30 grams, a personal cultivation limit of up to four plants per household and will establish provincial penalties for youth possession of up to five grams.

“These decisions are just the start, we are not rolling out our entire approach to legalization today,” Furey said. “We’re taking the time to get this right.”

Meanwhile, the province also released an online survey indicating 78% of the 31,000 respondents supported Ottawa’s decision to legalize recreational cannabis, with 75% saying 19 was an appropriate age.

Results were mixed on how people felt recreation pot should be sold, with about half saying they supported the use of a Crown corporation like the provincial liquor commission.

The majority—73%—also agreed with some outdoor use of recreational cannabis, but with restrictions.

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Transcontinental Media G.P.