Pubdate: Thu, 25 Feb 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andre Picard
Page: A4


Like alcohol, marijuana is principally a recreational drug. It makes 
sense, then, that it be sold in a similar manner

As the federal government moves cautiously (and, at times, clumsily) 
toward fulfilling its promise to legalize marijuana, one of the key 
questions is: Where will pot be sold?

There are several options: 6 In state-controlled outlets, the way 
beer and liquor are sold in many provinces. 6 In stand-alone private 
businesses, the way liquor is sold in some provinces. 6 In grocery 
stores and corner stores, the way beer and wine are sold in Quebec 
and, to a limited extent, in Ontario. 6 In pharmacies, along with 
prescription and non-prescription drugs. 6 Online, the way so-called 
medical marijuana is now legally sold in Canada. 6 In dispensaries - 
glorified head shops - the way it is now done commonly (but not 
legally) in a number of Canadian cities. 6 In collectives and clubs, 
the way it is done in places such as Colorado. 6 In "coffee" shops, 
as in the Netherlands. 6 Allowing users to grow their own, as is done 
in Alaska.

This question has taken on some urgency because the current law is a 
skunky muddle.

Right now, medical marijuana is legal, if you get a prescription. But 
pot is the only prescription drug not sold at pharmacies - though we 
learned Tuesday that the giant Shoppers Drug Mart chain is exploring 
the idea of becoming a supplier. Rather, when you have a script, you 
can order your pot online from one of 29 licensed suppliers. You can 
also grow your own, after the Federal Court ruled Wednesday that the 
single-supplier regime is discriminatory.

Despite the law, most users buy their medicinal pot at dispensaries, 
which are unregulated and illegal, and get a good chunk of their 
product on the black market.

Whether marijuana should be considered medicine is debatable. It is 
not tested and licensed like other prescription drugs and it is the 
only prescription drug that is smoked. (Let's not forget that the 
real health impacts of smoking come from breathing in the byproducts 
of combustion, whether you smoke pot, tobacco or banana leaves.) Most 
physicians want no part in prescribing pot, and they're quite right 
to be skeptical.

Legalizing marijuana would make the faux distinction between 
medicinal and recreational pot unnecessary.

The reason marijuana should be legalized is because prohibition isn't 
working. It is more sensible, from a criminal-justice and 
public-health perspective, to introduce a regulatory regime that 
tries to minimize harms rather than maximize punishment.

That means, among other things, restricting availability, 
particularly to young people; curbing demand through pricing and 
taxation; controlling the strength of psychoactive substances such as 
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol); having clear rules 
on drugged-driving; enhancing access to treatment; and investing in 
education and prevention. We do all of those things, with various 
degrees of success, with alcohol.

Like alcohol, marijuana is principally a recreational drug. It makes 
sense, then, that it be sold in a similar manner.

Ontario thinks the best place for pot sales is in LCBO (Liquor 
Control Board of Ontario) outlets. British Columbia is looking at the 
idea of kiosks within liquor stores, which are private and public in 
the province. Quebec, which initially rejected the idea of selling 
pot in SAQ (Societe des alcools du Quebec) outlets, now seems to be 
warming to the idea. In other words, there is a consensus building 
and it's a sensible, pragmatic one.

If we're going to legalize and create a new market for a regulated 
substance, you don't need to reinvent the wheel - or the distribution system.

What Ottawa has to do now is take a whole bunch of options off the 
table and make clear that, once legalized, marijuana will be sold in 
liquor outlets, private or public.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom