Now that marijuana is legal, the product needs to be made available, says the opposition critic of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.
Nicole Sarauer said the few stores open in the province are not enough to curb the black market.
“We already know that probably isn’t going to be enough to meet the demand in Saskatchewan so then all of those people will turn to the black market,” Sarauer said.
Six marijuana stores were open on the first day of legalization Oct. 17, of 51 locations with permits.
“We want to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to eliminate the black market as much as possible and that means making cannabis accessible to people,” Saurauer said.
During a media availability Wednesday at the legislature, Gene Makowsky, the minister responsible for the SLGA, said it’s up to permit holders to meet regulatory requirements.
He pointed out that Calgary only had two stores open and there was only one in B.C.
“We understand that there is a lot of different factors going into opening a store. Certainly there’s a little more into opening a cannabis store in a completely new environment,” Makowsky said.
“(It’s) not our government’s initiative but this was from the feds and we’re doing the best we can. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise that there is some supply issues when a new system is turned on overnight.”
Because the cannabis industry is brand new, Makowsky said the government does not have any projections on how much revenue it would receive through taxes.
Sarauer said the government needs to come up with some numbers soon, and needs to make an agreement with municipalities on sharing that money as they will be the ones responsible for enforcing regulatory and bylaw compliance.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said the province would be better off if cannabis had not been legalized.
“The provinces are the one that have to develop the marketing and the regulatory authority and we also have to be aware of what effect this is going to have on road safety, safety in the workplace and we have to take provisions to make sure we keep it away from schools and young people,” Morgan said.
Morgan also weighed in on the federal government’s pledge to waive the waiting period and fee for those seeking a pardon for simple cannabis possession offences, saying applications should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Sarauer said Ottawa should go further and expunge the convictions for simple possession.
“It’s very important because,largely, these charges impacted the most vulnerable people in our province and it’s a very significant barrier to employment,” she said.