OTTAWA — The federal government appears ready to take a hands-off approach as provinces begin rolling out how they plan to police the sale and use of marijuana once it becomes legal.
Ontario last week became the first province to unveil its plans for handling legalized pot by announcing that it would closely mimic the province’s current system for liquor.
Marijuana will be sold at 150 dedicated stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, it will only be sold by those aged 19 or over, and consumption will only be allowed in private residences.
The proposal has sparked anger and concern from some pot activists and aspiring retailers, who have warned that Ontario’s proposed model will limit supplies and do little to eliminate the black market.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to weigh in Sunday on Ontario’s proposed plan, and indicated that the federal government would stay out of how provinces address marijuana legalization.
“Each province has the flexibility to design it the way they think most appropriate. Ontario has laid out their proposal. That’s within their jurisdiction to do,” he said.
“Other provinces, I would imagine now, will come forward with their recommendations. They may follow the Ontario model. They may choose a different approach.”
Goodale, who spoke to reporters following a ceremony to honour fallen firefighters in Ottawa, reaffirmed that the purpose of legalization is to keep pot away from minors and organized crime.
And he expressed confidence that whatever model individual provinces decide to adopt, those aims will be met.
“Each province will adopt different tools as they see fit for their jurisdiction,” Goodale said.
“But there is no diluting of the goal: protect our kids and stop the flow to crime. And Ontario, I’m sure, will be designing that they believe will accomplish that objective effectively.”
The Trudeau government is moving to legalize recreational marijuana by next July, and earmarked $247 million over five years on Friday to support policing and border efforts associated with that plan.
Goodale said the money is part of the Liberals’ promise to ensure provinces, municipalities and law-enforcement agencies have the tools and resources to enforce the new laws governing legalized pot.
“Law enforcement will need the tools to do that job, so we put money on the table as promised to assist with training and to assist with the acquisition of the right kind of technical equipment,” he said.
The promised new funding includes $161 million to train frontline officers in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of drug-impaired driving, provide access to drug-screening devices and educate the public.
Some of that money will also be used to develop policy, bolster research and raise awareness about the dangers of drug-impaired driving.
The remaining $113 million will go to Public Safety, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure organized crime does not infiltrate the legalized system and to keep pot from crossing borders.