New Brunswick Liberals, Greens, Oppose Privatization of Cannabis, Liquor Stores



Kris Austin, leader of the People’s Alliance was on the CBC's New Brunswick Political Panel recently, to argue for the privatization of liquor and cannabis sales. According to him, reduction of the overhead cost for liquor and cannabis distribution would enable the government to spend less and still make money from selling those products by revising the sales taxes. He also argued that this would boost efficiency, increase revenue and create jobs.

Austin’s proposal was met with intense pushback from opposition parties. Liberal MLA Roger Melanson and Green MLA Kevin Arseneau contended that the revenue coming from NB Liquor and Cannabis NB is already secure, and the government puts this money back into the province's education and health systems.

Arseneau further argued that privatization in Alberta has led to in lower revenue for the government "and an increase in social harms,"

Melanson countered this, saying that even though Alberta has a privatized distribution of liquor and cannabis, its government is still responsible for regulations and procurement. He said it was wrong for Austin to assume that what may work for Alberta will work for New Brunswick.

"It's not apple to apple in terms of revenue being generated," he said.

Even though no Progressive Conservative government representative was available to participate in the panel, Austin claims he’s brought up the topic of privatization with the government.

"We've certainly pushed the file with government," Austin said.

The Conversation, highlights five key factors that need to be considered before a city can privatize pot sales. Namely, availability, pricing, the government/health community’s perspective on recreational marijuana use, education and quality control.

Availability

A key advantage to having marijuana readily available is the fact that when legal marijuana is easier to access, the likelihood that people choose it over black market weed is higher.

On the down side, the increased availability of the product would typically lead to higher consumption. It is unclear whether that’s the government’s goal; nevertheless, higher availability generally has this effect.

Pricing

The article states that, the most important driver of black market sales for a particular product is the price gap between legal (or authorized) products and those that are available on the black market. When the gap is large, black markets generally flourish.

The government perspective

The government’s perspective towards any regulated product is usually seen on how much tax is placed on the product. For instance, cigarettes and alcohol have very high taxes placed on them. However, the level of taxation on recreational cannabis is lower than other regulated products. This could mean that the government is not discouraging the consumption as it does with tobacco or alcohol.

Education

There is a lot of focus on the business and retail aspects of legalization and the issue of education almost seems like an afterthought. With a product like cannabis that has significant physical and psychological effects, the public needs to be better educated about its consumption.

Quality control

The marijuana industry should be subject to similar quality checks as the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturer validation and manufacturer monitoring, which would be more efficient and effective through a tightly controlled distribution system.


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