Legal Pot: Canada Will Sell Marijuana in Liquor Stores

One province in Canada has decided to sell its marijuana in liquor stores.

Nova Scotia, a province on Canada’s eastern shore, announced on Thursday that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., its sole alcohol distributor, would sell the drug in its stores and on its website once Canada legalizes weed in July of next year.

12_08_Marijuana_Beer A Russian River Brewing Company customer takes a sip of beer on February 7, 2014, in Santa Rosa, California. In some Canadian provinces, liquor stores will sell marijuana when the drug becomes legal next year. GETTY/Justin Sullivan

"The NSLC has the experience and expertise to distribute and sell restricted products like alcohol and now cannabis in a socially responsible way," Justice Minister Mark Furey said at a press conference. "We believe the NSLC is best positioned to sell cannabis, keeping it out of the hands of young people and making it legally available in a safe, regulated way."

Experts say this has its downsides—like for those recovering from alcoholism, who may be pushed into temptation if they want to purchase pot, for instance.

“Does it increase or decrease cannabis consumption and alcohol consumption to have the two together?” asked Mark Haden, a professor of public policy at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health. He called the whole thing a “debate with no evidence” at this point. 

But it also has its upsides––liquor stores already have the brick-and-mortar locations, and they have increased security and surveillance to make sure minors don’t buy alcohol and no one steals it.

Nova Scotians will be allowed 30 grams (roughly 30 to 40 joints), and must be over the age of 19 to purchase marijuana. Canada will legalize the drug in July, but the federal government has left it up to its 10 provinces to decide where they will sell it, how much residents can have and what the legal parameters around its dispensaries are. Ontario is also planning to sell its marijuana in liquor stores. Some provinces, however, are opting instead for government-run stores, like in New Brunswick, where stores will ban advertising and window displays.

While provincial regulations are moving along quickly, governments are still scrambling to meet the rapidly approaching July 2018 deadline—a timeline Quebec's public officials have called too fast. They've asked twice for a one-year extension to 2019 (and were denied).

The Nova Scotia government opened up its policies to an online survey, led by MQO Research. The vote was close—56 percent of respondents wanted standalone stores for marijuana rather than the two-in-one combination, while 49 percent said they liked the liquor store idea.   

The NSLC has not responded to a request for comment.