Pubdate: Thu, 04 Dec 2014
Source: Innisfil Journal (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Rick Vanderlinde


What would the legalization of marijuana look like in Canada?

It was a question the Barrie-Innisfil federal Liberal riding
association tackled during a town hall meeting Sunday.

Association president Adam English told about 50 people - some of them
medical and recreational marijuana users - the Liberal party wants to
hear what voters think of its pledge to legalize marijuana if elected
to govern next year.

"It would be a controlled effort so it is not so easily accessible to
teens and it would cut out organized crime," English said. "It is so
much easier in our current system to access marijuana when it is illegal."

Canada has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the world,
with about 28 per cent of teens having tried marijuana, English said.

Three panel members - a retired police officer, a recreational user
and a medical marijuana advocate - led the debate.

Fleur Ottaway, who supports recreational use, said the benefits of
ending the prohibition of marijuana include restricting its use to
adults and creating a $1 billion industry, which can fund healthcare
and education through taxation.

"It should be done with an LCBO-type system so it is heavily
controlled," Ottaway said.

Paul Bailey, a former York Region police officer, supports
decriminalization but not legalization.

Bailey said he fears legalization would create more mental health and
addiction issues, especially among youth. Decriminalizing it would end
criminal records for those caught with small amounts and save the
justice system money.

"I don't think a 19-year-old person with a good life ahead should be
stigmatized with a criminal record," Bailey said.

Micheline Robichaud supports legalization to make cannibis more easily
accessible to those who use it for medical reasons. Robichaud's
13-year-old son uses medical marijuana to control seizures. But
getting a dependable supply is difficult under the current system set
up by the federal Conservative government, she said.

"Society is not going to fall apart. It's not going to be people
running down the streets and smoking joints," Robichaud said. "The
more people learn about this, the more people are going to say, 'What
are we really afraid of?"

Last month, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau welcomed the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health's recommendation to legalize marijuana
with strict regulations.

Dr. Jurgen Rehm, director of the Social and Epidemiological Research
Department at the centre, says the current policy has failed to
prevent or reduce the harms associated with cannabis use.

Several speakers at Sunday's meeting said legalization would allow
more education on its effects and would encourage MADD-style campaigns
to reduce driving under the influence of marijuana.

"Legalization is coming. We have to manage it," an audience member
said. "We don't want the wild west. We want to minimize any harm. Many
people are using this for physical and emotional pain management. The
government in this country wants to throw you in jail and cause
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