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Members shop at the Health Lifestyle Marijuana Supply Centre on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

One of the incoming Liberal government's more high-profile campaign planks is its plan to legalize recreational marijuana use, which raises the spectre that Vancouver's ubiquitous – and, at least for now, illegal – pot shops could soon bloom across the country.

But long-time MP and recent Liberal health critic Hedy Fry said any move to allow storefront sales of cannabis – whether at retail shops or pharmacies, or both – would need approval from an upcoming task force comprising municipal, provincial and federal politicians, law enforcement, and public health and addiction experts.

The outgoing Conservative government was vehemently opposed to both medical and recreational use of pot, and only created the new federal mail-order system for cannabis patients at the beginning of last year after losses in the Supreme Court of Canada. It also used the issue to repeatedly attack Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau during the federal election campaign.

Mr. Trudeau, the prime-minister-designate, has not said precisely what marijuana legalization will look like under the new Liberal government or how it will be taxed. His costed platform did not include revenue from marijuana taxes.

One thing is clear, said Ms. Fry, who is also a medical doctor: The incoming Liberal government will use "evidence-based policy-making" to guide its marijuana policies, including research that better explains when, why and how it should be prescribed as a medical drug.

"Industry could do some of the work, but I think, always, we've had government funding good research that would come about with good clinical guidelines [for use of the drug]," Ms. Fry said.

Canadian physicians are the gatekeepers to the current medical cannabis regime, but most resist prescribing the drug because of a dearth of clinical evidence and fears over improper dosing.

About two dozen commercial producers are now licensed under the new federal system. Presumably, those same producers could be first in line to enter a legalized recreational market. Three commercial growers that are publicly traded saw their stock prices shoot up significantly as the markets opened on Tuesday, the morning after the election.

Bruce Linton, chief executive officer of Canopy Growth Corp., one of the largest licensed growers, said he could envision a hybrid regulatory system in which his brand, Tweed, sells recreational pot through a shop akin to a government-run liquor store, and Bedrocan, the other owned by Canopy Growth, continues mailing medicine directly to patients.

Adding to the complexity is an ongoing Federal Court case involving a group of patients fighting for the right to continue growing marijuana at home, which was banned under the new federal system. The Liberals have not said whether they would attempt to maintain the ban on home growing, but Ms. Fry said continuing to fight such court cases is a waste of public money.

In Vancouver, more than 100 illegal marijuana dispensaries have opened in recent years. The city didn't shut them down, but responded by introducing new rules to hand out business licences. Victoria is considering similar measures.

The federal government has estimated the number of medical marijuana users in Canada could swell to as many as 450,000 people in the next decade. Analysts have estimated the regulation and taxation of recreational sales could bring in anywhere from $1-billion to $6-billion in government revenue.

Chuck Rifici, who volunteers as the federal Liberal Party's chief financial officer and founded Tweed before resigning last year, said, "Everything's potentially on the table," adding he expects the Liberals to eventually allow retail sales in some form.

"There aren't a lot of industries where you're forced to provide product by mail order," said Mr. Rifici, who still owns stock in Tweed's parent company and said he will not be involved in crafting any legislation. "In Vancouver, clearly, there's a large demand: Cannabis users want to be able" to see the product in advance.

On Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson welcomed "the opportunity to harmonize" his city's ground-breaking regulatory approach with any new rules the Liberal government comes up with.

In the meantime, he said, he expected the city would continue weeding out suitable dispensary and compassion club locations from a pool of 176 applications aspiring to be licensed under a pot shop bylaw enacted in June.

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