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N.S. marijuana activists concerned with Ontario’s plan for legalization

WATCH ABOVE: Some marijuana activists in Nova Scotia are weighing in on Ontario’s proposed plan to sell marijuana once it’s legalized on Canada Day. Natasha Pace has more.

The owner of a medical marijuana lounge in Halifax is weighing in on how one province plans to sell marijuana next year.

On Friday, Ontario became the first Canadian province to announce a plan of how it plans to handle marijuana once it’s legalized on July 1, 2018.

Among the plan’s highlights: Ontario plans to sell marijuana in up to 150 government-run stores that will be operated by the liquor control board.

Marijuana will be available for people 19-years of age and older to purchase – but residents will not be allowed to consume it in public spaces. The government made it clear that they also intend to crack down on the illegal dispensaries that currently operate.

READ: Here’s how you will buy pot once it’s legalized in Canada

“As we build up a safe, responsible channel for recreational cannabis, our twin goal will be to stop the sale of illegal, unregulated and unsafe cannabis,” said Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. “Illicit cannabis dispensaries are not legal now and will not be legal retailers under the new model. Let me be clear: these pot dispensaries are illegal and will be shut down.”

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The news that governments plan to close marijuana dispensaries doesn’t come as a shock to some activists.

“I think it’s both scary for patients who are medically licensed and rely on dispensaries for products that aid in their pain, aid in their specific medical conditions,” said Chris Enns, the owner of Farm Assists in Halifax.

“I think more so, it’s a step backwards in terms of trying to bring the industry above the board. If we’re going to cut out the very players that have brought the industry to where it is today then we’re only going to facilitate the grey market.”

Canadian marijuana legalization timeline: Dispensary raids and major announcements

Enns says he has some concerns with Ontario’s plan.

“The store front model they’re suggesting will only allow the distribution of flowers. So, extracts and edibles, which are really a growing part of the cannabis industry, will be completely excluded and left to the grey market still to supply,” he said.

In Nova Scotia, no plans for how to tackle the legalization of marijuana have been released yet.

“In Nova Scotia, from what I’ve heard, we’ve been waiting to hear what other provinces are going to do, more specifically New Brunswick, sort of spearheading the Atlantic Canada provinces but I do fear that with this announcement from Ontario, it’s going to shift the direction in that respect,” said Enns.

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WATCH: 10 arrests, 69 charges following N.S. RCMP raids of Tasty Budds marijuana dispensaries

10 arrests, 69 charges following N.S. RCMP raids of Tasty Budds marijuana dispensaries
10 arrests, 69 charges following N.S. RCMP raids of Tasty Budds marijuana dispensaries

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) says any potential role for them hasn’t been identified, as work on the province’s cannabis plan continues.

Sarah Gillis, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice says the health and safety of Nova Scotians, especially children and youth, is the Nova Scotia government’s top priority.

“Cannabis legalization is complex and will have significant impacts on provinces, territories and municipalities. There is a lot of work to do and many decisions to make in the coming months around the distribution model, health and safety, taxation, regional alignment and the legislative steps we need to take to be ready for July 2018,” she said.

READ: Local governments across Canada have ‘a lot of homework’ to do before pot is legal

Enns hopes the government consults with the public before any plans are finalized.

“In Nova Scotia, we haven’t yet set down a time frame for public consultations and for dialog around where we’re going to move in the distribution model,” said Enns.

“Both patients in Nova Scotia and dispensaries in Nova Scotia and other stakeholders have a lot to say and I think they have some unique ideas on how we can navigate some of the problems that other provinces have highlighted.”

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Gillis says the province is looking at various options and will be consulting with Nova Scotians in the fall.

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