Councillors question plan for cannabis distribution

PORT HAWKESBURY: Nova Scotia’s plan to distribute cannabis at nine Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) locations across the province has sparked some discussion around the council table.

At Port Hawkesbury Town Council’s monthly meeting on February 6, Deputy Mayor Hughie MacDougall said some citizens have expressed concern to him over the lack of dispensaries in the Strait area.

“What I understand is from Sydney River to New Glasgow, there’s nothing between there anywhere,” said MacDougall.

Although access will be available through on-line sales, MacDougall said many people are concerned about the stigma of showing identification at the post office to pick up the product, or having it delivered to their homes.

MacDougall is also concerned that the lack of access will do little to discourage illegal sales of cannabis in the region.

“We don’t want to get into a bootleg situation in the quad counties here where somebody is going to New Glasgow and coming back with a truckload and selling it to people. I don’t think we, as the quad counties, need that,” he said.

MacDougall made a motion to consider a draft letter to the Minister of Health and Wellness to explain the reasoning behind the lack of access in the Strait area. Council moved to review the draft at the next committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Councillor Trevor Boudreau supported a request for further explanation from the province of why and how the planned distribution model was chosen.

“I have not seen any logic in terms of how the federal government or the province are running these things and how they’re figuring out what’s best for the provinces,” Boudreau said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It would be interesting to get a perspective from the minister or from somebody in the staff saying these are the reasons we’ve done it rather than saying here are the locations and happy sales.”

Following the meeting, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm Beaton said there will be a lot of factors to discuss prior to legalization on July 1.

“Access will not be the same as it will be closer to each of the nine locations, but there will still be some access,” she said.

“If there was no access at all to the Strait area, it would be most concerning, but I guess we’re all learning, and we’re all trying to figure it out, municipalities, the province, and our citizens. This is new.”

Chisholm-Beaton said there are a variety of questions municipalities will need to consider in addition to distribution, including how the cost of policing will be impacted by legalized cannabis, and what the rules will be around its use in public spaces.

“I think it’s important to keep the topic at the forefront between now and July 1, and I’m sure it’s not going to go away after July 1, so we’ll have to continue the conversation,” the mayor added.