Manitoba lifts ban on homegrown cannabis, pauses some new retail licences – Winnipeg

The Manitoba government’s plan to let people grow cannabis in their homes is being accompanied by a temporary pause on approval of some new retail outlets.

Justice Minister Matt Wiebe introduced a bill Wednesday that would lift the province’s ban on homegrown recreational cannabis.

The change would leave Quebec as the only province with a ban. All other provinces leave the matter to federal law, which allows a maximum of four plants per household.

“I want to emphasize that as we implement these changes, the safety of the public, and particularly of young people, is paramount,” Wiebe said.

Before the ban is lifted, the NDP government will develop regulations to govern homegrown cannabis with the aim of keeping it out of the hands of minors, Wiebe said.

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The ban was enacted by the former Progressive Conservative government and was upheld in a court ruling last year. Jesse Lavoie, the activist who fought the ban, filed an appeal that has yet to be heard. He said he will drop the appeal if the government’s bill is passed into law.

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The Opposition Progressive Conservatives say the proposed change needs a full discussion, because it is unclear how homegrown cannabis can be kept away from youngsters.

“In my experience as an investigator, there have been overdoses by children who have unintentionally got into cannabis products,” said Wayne Balcaen, the Tories’ justice critic and a former police officer.

On the retail side, the government is putting a temporary moratorium on new licences in urban areas for what are known as “controlled-access” stores that sell cannabis.

Unlike stand-alone stores that only admit adults, controlled-access outlets include convenience stores and gas stations that are open to all ages but put cannabis products out of the reach of customers.

There are 11 such outlets in urban areas already, and the government said it wants to take time to review whether adding more is necessary and socially responsible.

“We have questions as to whether we should be adding more of these locations, specifically in urban areas,” said Glen Simard, minister for liquor and lotteries.

The pause was welcomed by High Tide Inc., which operates stand-alone stores under the Canna Cabana brand.

“These (controlled-access) licences were intended to provide access to legal cannabis in rural communities without an established legal retail cannabis store,” Raj Grover, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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“We hope that the six-month review will help establish important guardrails to ensure that these licences are limited to under-serviced communities only.”

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