By / February 2, 2021

Cannabis education fund suspended in New Brunswick

It has come to our attention that the Cannabis Education and Awareness Fund initiative, launched in 2018 with an annual budget of over $1 million, is now inactive.

Disbursements from the Fund are currently on hold as the government considers the future of the cannabis retail model in New Brunswick.This has been confirmed by e-mail from Finance Department spokesperson Jennifer Vienneau.

The decision comes in the context of poltiical uncertainty about the future of Cannabis in the province. The Progressive Conservatives led by Blaine Higgs are exploring the possibility of privatizing the sale and distribution of recreational cannabis in the province.

In November 2019, they issued a tender for the sale of Cannabis NB, which was then running deficit after deficit.

Since then, this Crown corporation has switched from red ink to black ink and is generating millions of dollars in profits. Even the Prime Minister said in December 2020 that this turnaround could be a game changer.

Cannabis Education fund lethargic since its inception

The Cannabis Education and Awareness Fund was announced by Brian Gallant’s Liberal government in March 2018, a few months before cannabis was legalized across Canada.

The objective of the initiative was to support research and development, as well as the implementation and delivery of programs and policies related to the responsible use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

The then Minister of Finance, Cathy Rogers, announced a government contribution of $250,000 to kick-start the Fund.

The remainder of the funding came from the province’s four cannabis suppliers, who had agreed with Fredericton to contribute 2% of their gross revenues to the fund.

In its first year of operation, the Cannabis Education and Awareness Fund had a budget of $1.075 million. This increased to $1.1 million the following year and $1.4 million in 2020-2021.

However, according to data from the Department of Finance, the project was not very successful. Its spokesperson, Jennifer Vienneau, reports that only two proposals were received in the first two years.

They were accepted and applicants received $25,000 and $21,000 respectively, for a total of $46,000. This represents only 2% of the funds available for the years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

Cannabis education decision denounced by the opposition

The official opposition critic, Liberal MP Robert McKee, says he is disappointed by the Progressive Conservative government’s decision.

“Privatization or no privatization, the provincial government must educate and raise public awareness” he said.

“Even if we move towards privatization of the model, there will always be a need for education and awareness. The government’s responsibility will remain” he says.

Robert McKee added that the government could have done more to publicize this initiative and identify projects for funding.

“We should have done a better job of promoting the fund, maybe we could have been more proactive as a government, we could have done initiatives in the school system, things like that, where we could have spent the money.” – Robert McKee, Official Opposition Critic

Green Party leader David Coon says the suspension is not a “bad thing”.  David Coon believes that the provincial government – which has a monopoly on the sale of cannabis in the province – has never really wanted cannabis awareness and education since Blaine Higgs has been in power.

The leader of the Alliance of New Brunswickers, Kris Austin, was not available for an interview. His spokesperson sent us a written statement.

“1.1 million for cannabis awareness and education seems to be a misuse of government funds. The fact that only two applications have been received in two years proves it.” says Austin. He welcomes the suspension of the fund: “I’m glad to hear he’s been suspended. It probably should never have been started because there are many other important services that are not adequately funded.”

Featured image by Ryan via Unsplash


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