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The Finance Minister of Manitoba says legalizing recreational marijuana to generate revenue is short-sighted.

Cameron Friesen recently returned from the Federal Finance Ministers meeting in Ottawa where the discussion around cannabis legalization "seemed to start and end" around the idea of potential revenue.

"I think that's just wrong," said Cameron Friesen. "Every finance minister wants to maximize revenue, however, we need the right kind of revenue as the economy grows in this province."

Friesen explained making marijuana legal in 2018 is too soon when there are a wide variety of other issues still unresolved.

The first priority is public safety, Friesen said, noting there's no consistent test of sobriety for police to administer to drivers.

"We are becoming more and more aware as a jurisdiction of the link between impaired drivers and the use of marijuana," he said.

Meanwhile, there's still disagreement as to the proper legal age to consume cannabis.

Even in terms of supply and demand, processing and distribution, "we are years behind the black market," Friesen explained.

"It would be naive to think the government could parachute in and somehow replace the black market supply of this."

With a variety of issues still on the table, Friesen would like to see the approval of this legislation delayed.

Earlier this year the Manitoba Government approved Bill 25, which is its Cannabis Harm Prevention Act, a first measure that would at least allow officers to enforce a license suspension.

"Those are the legal tools that are available to us. Obviously many more changes would be necessary as we navigate this very tricky path ahead of us."

Friesen would also like to see legislation rolled out uniformly across the country. If every province taxes tobacco products in different ways, he explained it could create an uneven playing field and opportunity for contraband product coming into more affordable jurisdictions, "that's not the kind of entrepreneur spirit we want."

"We need to think in terms of principles and in terms of what type of society we want to be," Friesen said. "We need to think in terms of long term sustainability... I think a province who sees the legalization of cannabis as the answer to all of their problems is taking a very naive view."

 

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