Could Canada Post become Canada Pot? The Crown corporation is desperately seeking new revenue sources, as mail volumes drop five per cent a year.
At the same time, the federal government is equally frantic in its hunt for income, as the economy slows.
The suggestion from producers of medicinal marijuana is that Canada Post be the initial distribution network for recreational cannabis, after pot is legalized by the new government.
The new market could be worth as much as $7 billion according to some estimates. If the federal and provincial governments impose a 20 per cent excise tax, it will amount to considerably more than the “bit of revenue” anticipated by the prime minister in a press conference before Christmas, when he said any money raised would be diverted towards addiction treatment and education.
Mark Zekulin, president of Tweed, the country’s largest producer of medical marijuana, said his product is already distributed using Canada Post and the quickest way to introduce a legalized system would be to use a network that already carefully tracks the product from seed to consumer, with negligible diversion to the criminal market.
A spokesman for the Crown corporation said Canada Post would be guided by the law. “If it is legal to mail, we will accept it, and if it is deemed not to be legal to go through the mail then obviously we won’t,” he said.
The federal government has said it will set up a task force with the provinces and territories to look at distribution of legalized pot but the fear is the process might take years. A number of provinces have already said their provincial liquor board retail network might provide an efficient distribution network.
Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who will stickhandle the pot file for the federal government as parliamentary secretary for justice, said he wants to talk to the provinces before making any decisions.
“They play a significant role in regulation, so that has to take place. I get that people in the industry are anxious to move forward. But we’ve got a bit of work to do,” he said in an interview.
He added there will be no timeline on changes to the Criminal Code until discussions have taken place with the ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Health – conversations that have not yet taken place. “We haven’t had time to do that but we know there is a need for us to get going and we will do so as quickly as possible. But we’re not taking any shortcuts,” he said.
Currently, medical marijuana is sold by mail order with a prescription. Under an expanded, legalized system, suppliers could collect payment online and ship to an address provided by the buyer. Canada Post already makes wine deliveries, where age has to be verified by the recipient. A similar age and identity verification system would work for pot, industry proponents argue.
While it might seem unlikely that Canada Post would use its retail network as pot dispensaries, the Crown corporation is already changing its look as it bets its future on e-commerce. One store in Richmond Hill, Ont., has been given a make-over that includes a drive-thru, vending machines and changing rooms, where customers can try on the clothes they have ordered and return them immediately if they are not satisfied.
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