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New authority for inspectors in New Brunswick to deal with more than 100 illegal cannabis stores

Media Partners, Stratcann

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New Brunswick recently passed new legislation to give provincial inspectors more authority to target a growing number of illegal cannabis stores.

Bill 29, An Act Respecting Cannabis Control Act, passed third reading on May 15, and gives inspectors more authority and increases fines for those operating illegal cannabis stores, as well as their landlords.

The legislation was also debated by the Standing Committee on Economic Policy, where several questions were raised by Robert McKee, MLA for Moncton Centre, and Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent North, fielded by Bruce Fitch, the Bill’s sponsor.

According to Fitch, as of April 1, 2024, 107 illegal cannabis stores are operating in the province. Of these, 74 are operating in First Nations communities, says Fitch. Provincial representatives have in the past repeatedly said they do not have the authority to enforce their cannabis regulations on First Nations reserve lands, and this legislation is not expected to change that.

During debate of the bill in the Committee, Fitch did not directly respond to several questions from both McKee and Arseneau about how this new legislation would apply to these First Nations-affiliated stores, or about the current provincial government’s stance on these types of stores, instead making references to the complexity of the issue, often referring to provincial and federal jurisdictions or explaining the difference between provincial and federal rules. This mirrors similar statements made by the RCMP.

The legislation increases penalties to $5,000 if you operate a store, $2,000 if you are selling illegal cannabis (but not necessarily operating a store), and $5,000 for a landlord who knowingly allows such an operation on their property. 

Law enforcement in New Brunswick has raided several unlicensed cannabis stores in recent months, with one recent raid in April, two in March, and two more arrests and products seized from an unlicensed dispensary in Saint John in January

A court recently issued a $20,000 fine following a raid in 2022, while charges against two men connected to the company have been withdrawn.

There are 25 Cannabis NB stores in the province, plus a handful of licensed, privately-run cannabis stores.

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