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New Brunswick introducing legislative changes to reduce illicit cannabis sales

Media Partners, Stratcann

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New Brunswick is changing its provincial rules to more aggressively target illegal cannabis stores.

The provincial government has introduced amendments to its Cannabis Control Act with the goal of increasing compliance with provincial rules, reducing the sale of illegal cannabis, and preventing young people from consuming the drug.

Once passed, the proposed amendments to the act and its regulation would give inspectors more authority and increase fines for those operating illegal dispensaries and their landlords. They have been introduced as Bill 29, An Act Respecting Cannabis Control Act.

“Greater compliance is required to ensure the product is regulated and to keep it out of the hands of youth.”

Health Minister Bruce Fitch

The bill makes some proposed changes to the Act, such as adding new definitions and including language addressing landlords that knowingly allow the illegal sales of cannabis to operate on their property and giving enforcement officers the ability to enter and inspect any place, premises, or vehicle to which the Act applies, or any other place or premises connected to such business.

It also allows inspectors to purchase and inspect any products they come across as part of their investigations and gives greater authority to seize property and conduct inspections.

Inspectors would be given the power to seize items they believe are evidence of an offence under the act and allow those items to be forfeited to the Crown for disposal following a conviction.

“It is an offence to operate an illegal cannabis dispensary, and amendments are needed to strengthen the province’s ability to enforce penalties and investigate,” said Health Minister Bruce Fitch. “Greater compliance is required to ensure the product is regulated and to keep it out of the hands of youth.”

Fitch said the proposed amendments align with legislation in other Canadian jurisdictions.

This fiscal year, peace officers in New Brunswick say they have investigated and shut down 23 illegal cannabis dispensaries across the province.

Law enforcement in New Brunswick has raided several unlicensed cannabis stores in recent months, with two arrested in two raids in March, and two more arrested and product 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.

Ontario also recently announced funding to address enforcement against illicit cannabis stores better. 

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