Manitoba plans to hire youth to help catch retailers selling cannabis, alcohol to minors

The Manitoba government plans to stop alcohol and cannabis retailers from selling to minors by hiring young people for undercover operations.

Bill 60 was introduced in early November, but details were only released publicly on Thursday. It would allow minors hired by the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba to attempt to purchase regulated products. These sting operation would try to catch underage sales from happening. 

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the LGCA is limited in its enforcement activities, because it must have an inspector observe sales to a minor to identify a breach. 

“The only way to catch licensees who sell to minors or young people is to observe them doing so,” Cullen said in a statement to CBC News. 

Cullen said under these changes, young people under the legal age to buy cannabis or alcohol would work directly with inspectors to determine if a licensee would sell to them or serve them.

Hiring teens the wrong approach: Lamont

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont calls the bill, which would amend Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Act, a waste of time and money, saying it’s not a priority in the midst of a pandemic.  

He said the LGCA has hundreds of inspectors who work full time and enforcement is part of their jobs, so there is no need to hire minors. 

“They’re going to hire teens to go and try … to buy stuff from cannabis stores? This is one of the biggest wastes of money I’ve ever heard in my life. This is completely ridiculous,” Lamont said.

The province says it’s difficult to catch underage sales at alcohol and cannabis stores because an inspector has to see it happening. A proposed law would change that. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Cullen said minors would only be used when needed and would not replace the current inspection program. 

“Our research has also said that this approach has been effective in other jurisdictions in monitoring compliance,” said Cullen.

The proposed bill would also ensure delivery companies do not deliver alcohol or cannabis to minors or intoxicated persons by shifting the liability onto them.

As well, those who provide liquor samples at retail stores would no longer have to register with the LGCA.

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