November 20, 2015 4:43 pm
Updated: November 21, 2015 6:12 pm

Liquor stores best place to sell pot, says Manitoba premier

WATCH: Should liquor stores add marijuana to their product mix? At least one Canadian premier thinks so. Kristen Robinson looks at what some are calling "a perfect fit."

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The owner of a number of marijuana dispensaries across the country hopes an idea floated by Manitoba to let liquor stores sell weed – should it become legalized as promised by the new Liberal government – doesn’t go ahead.

“I hope it doesn’t happen. If it doesn’t, we’ll continue to employ people and work alongside the government,” says Don Briere, owner of Weeds Glass and Gifts.

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Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says government liquor stores are the best place to sell marijuana if and when the federal government legalizes the drug.

READ MORE: Trudeau’s victory could be a major boon to Canada’s marijuana industry

Selinger says Manitoba Liquor Mart outlets have staff that are well-trained on the potential risks of alcohol, and he suggests they would be in the same position to provide advice about marijuana.

“We’d like to do it under the existing system we have, which is a publicly offered service, with some exceptions in small communities where there is no (government) provision,” he said Thursday.

“We would want any employee in one of our outlets to be well-trained, to be able to inform the public of any of the potential health risks or safety risks, and do it without consuming the products.”

Selinger says many of the details have yet to be worked out, because the federal government will determine how the drug will be available.

Provincial politicians in British Columbia haven’t commented on what commercial model would be best if marijuana was legalized. But the treasurer for the BC Government and Services Employees Union says liquor stores could be an ideal commercial outlet for the product.

“In a variety of stores, you have trained professional staff throughout the province who are already doing a good job of regulation the sale of alcohol. We think it’s a similar exercise with marijuana,” said Paul Finch.

Vancouver lawyer Paul Dorshenko said allowing marijuana in liquor stores would doom the dispensary model that has flourished in Metro Vancouver over the past few years.

“I think [for] the marijuana dispensary, the writing is on the wall. Why do you need a marijuana dispensary if it’s for sale in a government liquor store?” he said.

But Jamie Shaw, President of Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, hopes dispensaries will remain for those who need marijuana for medical purposes.

I don’t think we’ll be phased out, at least that’s our hope,” she said.

“Our fear is that is what will happen, but our particular model of dispensary has been recommended by Canadian courts, Canadian Senate, the Canadian parliament, so we’re very hopeful.”

– With files from Kristen Robinson, Global News

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