Special to The Journal
Proceed with caution and handle with care.
That’s the advice of former politician and LCBO chairman Andy Brandt on Ottawa’s intention to legalize and distribute marijuana.
Brandt said he’s “cautiously in favour” of legal pot sales in Ontario, but has some reservations.
“The federal government has not determined how this will roll out,” he said. “Much more work needs to be done.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair to oversee the legalization process, which is seen as a judicial game-changer and major undertaking for the rookie Liberal MP.
Brandt, a long-time Tory MPP, said hearings and public policy reviews must first take place, and the question of distribution remains up in the air.
“It’s a 50-50 proposition. It is pretty hard to say what the best method of distribution will be.
“Bill Blair has never smoked,” Brandt added, noting the veteran cop has always been on the strategic end of marijuana control.
“It leaves a lot of question marks.”
Blair and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne have each suggested pot might be sold through the LCBO.
But Brandt, who was appointed its CEO in 1991 and boosted its reputation and profitability over his 15 years, said that’s premature.
Employees of the provincial agency are extremely well trained, but concerns remain about marijuana being a gateway drug, meaning it can lead to more serious drug use.
The distribution of medicinal marijuana may be better left to health professionals, he added, and some profit from legalization should be funneled into drug addiction and rehabilitation programs, Brandt said.
In 2013, Colorado became the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and tax collection from the sale of pot has proven lucrative to state coffers. The Denver Business Journal estimates Colorado has collected $100 million so far from marijuana sales.
Brandt added when pot does become legal Ontario should also use some of the revenue to reduce the province’s bloated deficit.
“I am worried about our financial state,” he said.