There is still work to do before Saskatchewan is ready for the legalization of marijuana this summer.
The province announced Monday that, once legal, pot would be sold through private retailers only. Those private retailers will be regulated by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Association.
The Saskatchewan Party government has been criticized for moving slowly on the file, with information such as the legal age for consumption still unknown.
“I’ve heard those concerns and I understand them,” SLGA Minister Gene Makowsky said at the legislature Monday.
“We are working as quickly as we can. We want to be diligent. We want to get it right.”
NDP leader Nicole Sarauer argued all the unknowns are creating uncertainty.
“If you were a retailer, you might move to a different jurisdiction if it takes too long to know what the regulations are going to be,” Sarauer said.
“It is very difficult for communities to create bylaws and get themselves ready for July when we know very little.”
Big cities scramble to get rules in place for private retailers
Cities like Regina and Saskatoon are trying to make decisions now as the July deadline for legalisation approaches.
The province said up to six retailers could be given a licence to operate cannabis stores in Regina, but there are already 12 medical dispensaries in existence.
Regina mayor Michael Fougere said he doesn’t know what the province’s announcement means for those businesses.
“It is a lottery system so there may be some dispensaries now that may qualify or that may not qualify, it may be six in addition to the 12. We don’t really know that either,” Fougere said.
The City of Regina has established a working group to look into issues around the legislation of cannabis, including zoning, bylaws and police regulation.
Without more information from the province Fougere says it’s difficult to come to conclusions.
Up to seven pot stores will be allowed in Saskatoon, where a city committee discussed Monday how they would allow the shops to operate.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark drew a round of applause from legal cannabis supporters in the gallery at city hall when he said stores shouldn’t be limited to the city’s northern industrial area.
He pointed to 8th Street, Broadway and downtown as potential areas for recreational marijuana sales.
“It’s just a matter of finding the right balance in those local areas,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to pre-empt any discussion of where stores may eventually be placed.
Clark said it’s important to ensure safe distances between pot shops and schools, which will be addressed as city administration works through its zoning and business licence options.
The Saskatoon mayor chuckled when he was asked if he’d publicly consume cannabis when it becomes legal.
“I have not given any consideration if I would go out there and light up a joint,” he said with a laugh.
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel and 980 CJME’s Sarah Mills