Pubdate: Wed, 16 Dec 2015
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Michael Den Tandt
Page: 5


Legalization of marijuana was a terrific attention-getter for Justin 
Trudeau in 2013, and a powerful emblem of change. It highlighted his 
youth and cool. It made Stephen Harper and his sternly anti-pot front 
bench look like fussy old bores; Sister Matilda, waggling a 
disapproving finger at the rambunctious kids at the back of the bus.

But that was then. Scratch beneath the surface and the file is rife 
with complex problems - social, legal and political. Members of the 
snowboard-and-munchie set, consequently, may have to wait a bit 
before they can present themselves, bong in hand, at the liquor 
store, and order a gram of what we used to call the polio, which 
removes one's ability to stand up.

Which is, of course, as good a place as any to begin. What 
self-respecting stoner would be caught dead buying marijuana in a 
state-owned store, with the government's blessing? At least half 
pot's appeal, when I was a teenager, was its illegality. It was a 
middle digit raised defiantly towards authority.

Marijuana use is, of course, more socially acceptable now than it was 
in the early 1980s. My sense though, from speaking about this to 
young people, is that counter-culture is still part of the cachet. 
Setting medicinal marijuana dispensaries to one side, therefore, it 
seems this future state-owned enterprise is ripe for bootlegging. 
Baby boomers of the Janis Joplin era may enjoy a subtle frisson as 
they watch their B.C. bud get bagged alongside the evening's pinot 
noir. But it's difficult to see how teenagers - for whom pot 
acquisition was supposed to become more difficult, under a new 
regulatory regime - can be prevented from continuing to obtain it 
from wherever they do now.

Those sources are everywhere. The price of illegal pot cannot help 
but be well below the LCBO standard, due to the lack of taxation and, 
let's face it, the absence of public-service wage rates and a benefit 
plan for grow-op staff. All of this raises questions of enforcement, 
which itself will have a cost.

And there's another aspect that is potentially far more problematic, 
as the state of Colorado has discovered. That is marijuana-impaired 
driving. Colorado began the process of legalization for medical use 
in 2006, and since 2013 has implemented full legalization. Data 
gathered by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, 
established to monitor effects of legalization, shows a dramatic 
increase in impaired driving due to marijuana. In 2014, according to 
a report released in September, the rise in pot-related road deaths 
was 32 per cent. From 2010 to 2014, the rise in marijuana-related 
traffic deaths was 92 per cent, compared with an 8 per cent increase 
in all Colorado traffic fatalities over the same period.

The difficult with pot and impaired driving, very simply, is unlike 
drunk driving, there is no quick way to test for it.

The determination usually occurs after the fact, with a blood sample. 
There's also no standard "dose" of THC (Tetrahydrocannibanol), after 
which a person can neatly be deemed impaired, because different 
people react to the drug in different ways.

This raises the question of what's to prevent our boomers from 
sparking up a fatty in the LCBO parking lot, then driving home. And, 
if smoking pot is legal but doing so before or while driving is not, 
how can this be enforced?

In his letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime 
Minister Trudeau put legalizing marijuana sixth on the to-do list, 
well down from dealing with physician-assisted death, and convening 
an inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. Overhauling 
criminal justice sentencing is fourth on the list.

Given this, and the thorniness of pot legalization, it should be no 
surprise if this gets back-burnered. Ganja liberalization activists: 
Don't hold your breath.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom