Against expert recommendations, Nova Scotia will sell cannabis in liquor stores

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      While the idea of selling cannabis in liquor stores might be popular among some politicians, most provinces have followed the advice of health experts who agree that cohousing the two substances is a bad idea by planning for separate retail outlets.

      Despite the trend in other provinces—as well as advice from Canada’s task force on cannabis legalization and other public-health and safety-related associations—Nova Scotia announced on December 7 that, come July 2018, recreational cannabis would be sold through select Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) outlets as well as online.

      “The NSLC has the experience and expertise to distribute and sell restricted products like alcohol and now cannabis in a socially responsible way,” Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told media at a news conference in Halifax.

      “We believe the NSLC is best positioned to sell cannabis, keeping it out of the hands of young people and making it legally available in a safe, regulated way.”

      In the results from the province’s public-feedback survey, 49 percent of respondents supported a public distribution and retail model, and according to the province’s website, stakeholders at public consultations were “overwhelmingly in favour” of a public distribution and retail model.

      In Prince Edward Island, where an announcement was also made on December 7 about that province’s cannabis regulations, distribution and retail will both be controlled by the P.E.I Liquor Control Commission, but cannabis will be sold in dedicated stores.

      “Dedicated stores will avoid encouraging the use of both alcohol and cannabis together (as recommended by the federal task force),” reads a same-day news release from that province.

      It is worth noting that across all jurisdictions with legal cannabis, both in the United States and abroad, no system colocating the sales of cannabis and alcohol has ever been implemented.

      In an interview last September with provincial health officer and federal task force member Dr. Perry Kendall, he told the Straight that although the use of liquor boards for distribution made sense, colocation could create unintentional users, and others might believe that because the two substances are sold in the same place that they can be consumed together.

      "In the end, the recommendation of the task force was, 'Don't do colocation'. By all means, use the liquor board to inspect, manage, distribute the product, even warehouse it—but not to colocate," he said.

      It could also create issues for nondrinkers and recovering alcoholics who use cannabis.

      In B.C., where an announcement was made on December 4 regarding the province’s plans for distribution and retail, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth gave no inidication that colocation has been ruled out. Although the announcement indicated plans for a mix of private and public retail opportunities, no mention of liquor stores was made.

      The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (Able BC) launched a campaign in support of the colocation of cannabis and alcohol in 2015 and have been seeking support since, calling their plan a “socially responsible” solution.