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Manitoba eases shopping restrictions, tightens cannabis law


November 22, 2019
By The Canadian Press

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WINNIPEG – Manitobans will soon have more freedom to shop but less freedom when it comes to consuming cannabis.

The Progressive Conservative government introduced two bills Nov. 22 to fulfill some of the key promises from this year’s election campaign.

One would lift restrictions on stores opening on Sundays and holidays, with the exception of Remembrance Day, when hours will continue to be from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“We’re in fact, I think, the only province in Western Canada that had these restrictions,” Finance Minister Scott Fielding said.

Manitoba’s current rules are complex. Tourism outlets, restaurants, liquor and cannabis stores, pharmacies and casinos can open on holidays, as can any store that normally operates with four or fewer workers at a time.

Other businesses, including grocers that have more than four employees working, can open on some holidays such as Victoria Day and Louis Riel Day, but not on six holidays that include Christmas, New Year’s Day and Canada Day.

On Sundays, many retailers are required to close at 6 p.m. Fines can range up to $10,000 a day.

Munther Zeid, a grocery store owner who was threatened with a fine earlier this year for a holiday opening, said the change is overdue.

“People should have a choice to do what they want on holidays, and if … having a barbecue is what you want to do instead of going to the casino, or whatever you choose to do, I mean you have that right to do it.” Zeid said.

Under the proposed law, municipalities will continue to have the right to set their own limits if they choose. Workers will also continue to have the right to decline to Sunday shifts.

The second bill introduced Friday would expand the province’s ban on smoking and vaping recreational cannabis in public places to also cover edible products, oils and other formats. Some other provinces, including Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, already ban all forms of public pot consumption.

The government plans to exempt cannabis products that do not contain THC – the intoxicating compound – from its public consumption ban as long as it is not smoked or vaped.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen suggested the ban on intoxicating brownies and other goods will likely only be enforced on people causing trouble, similar to the ban on open liquor.

“If (police) do find individuals that are acting up in public and … they can recognize this is a cannabis product, they can take the necessary steps then.”

The cannabis and shopping bills are before the legislature and it’s not yet clear when they might become law.