Pubdate: Tue, 05 Apr 2016
Source: Aquinian, The (CN NK Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The Aquinian
Author: Danielle Elliott


A Liberal Senate forum held earlier this year signified the Trudeau 
government taking its first tentative steps down the road to 
legalization. Yet, many questions remain unanswered as the government 
contemplates a homegrown solution.

Can I smoke it now?

The government ultimately is the only body with the power to put laws 
on moratorium, but Karla O'Regan, a St. Thomas University criminology 
professor, said some police forces might already be inclined to turn 
a blind eye to marijuana possession related offences.

"So, a group of adults who you find huddled in a back alley, smoking 
a joint at say Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, has a very little 
legal consequence," said O'Regan. "It uses so much police time and 
effort for what effectively is going be, well, a nuisance."

O'Regan said police response is largely dependent on the jurisdiction 
and community perception of drug offences in that area. Dispensaries 
have opened up across British Columbia and police have essentially 
ignored them. Vancouver actually has protected dispensaries. In other 
areas where the culture is less accepted in the community, O'Regan 
said arrests are more likely to continue for the time being.

Can I grow it home?

Elsewhere in Ottawa medicinal marijuana patients were anxiously 
awaiting the Supreme Court's decision whether or not to reverse 
regulations that banned patients from growing their medicinal plants 
at home. Before the decision, patients were required to mail-order 
their marijuana from licensed medicinal growers.

The suit was launched by four B.C. residents who felt their charter 
rights had been violated. The Supreme Court ruled in their favour and 
advocates everywhere, including legalization advocate Jody Emery 
celebrated. She feels even once recreational use is legalized, the 
ability to grow the plants yourself should be protected.

"The more options the better," Emery told the CBC. "If we move to try 
and restrict access to marijuana, there will be a black market that 
takes place and will continue to control that."

NORML, The National Organization for Reform on Marijuana Law also 
advocates for the right to produce at home, comparing it to home-made 
wine or beer.

This topic was much more controversial when it came to the senate 
forum. Rebecca Jesseman, the senior policy advisor for the Canadian 
Centre on Substance Abuse, said the lessons we've learned from 
legalization in Colorado means it's easier to operate in one system 
of legalization than duel systems of medicinal and recreational use.

She also advocates for strict regulations against home production of cannabis.

Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Police 
Chiefs echoed Jesseman's opinion, stating that strong regulatory 
framework regarding the production and sale of cannabis in order to 
keep it out of the hands of minors.

"It would be naive to believe organized crime will not attempt to 
infiltrate any available segment associated to the production, 
cultivation or the sale of marijuana," Weighill told the audience at 
the senate forum.

How will know what I'm buying?

Jesseman also advised strict control over the ways the product is 
sold. This includes avoiding edibles that may appeal to children and 
using childproof packaging with health warnings clearly indicated. 
Product testing for pesticides, mold and potency were also a concern 
to Jesseman - something that couldn't be controlled in home growing.

Sean Myles, a genetic researcher from Dalhousie University adds some 
weight to the discussion on product control. In 2015, his research 
lab, Cultivating Diversity, released their research findings on 
genetic differences between marijuana and hemp - but also on 
different strains of marijuana.

This research found in about a third of cases, strains were 
mislabeled and their names were not reliable sources of identification.

"It's got a really clandestine history, this plant," said Myles. 
"It's been breeding in the underground with no formal horticultural 
registration system and no way of being able to identify the identity 
of these plants."

Myles claims this has resulted in growers selling whatever products 
they like under any name, without any repercussion as consumers are 
none the wiser. He feels the regulation of breeding may help the 
industry sort out the "mess" that's been created as a result of 

"I think cannabis culture is one where these ideas of regulation and 
rules, these sorts of things, don't jive really well," said Myles. 
"But in the end, I think there is an interest among real medicinal 
marijuana patients to know what kind of plants that they're getting."

Research, research, research

Emery made a statement at the forum pleading for current producers 
and dispensaries to be included in the consultation process as their 
knowledge would be beneficial to the process. A senator requested 
studies be carried out on the effects of marijuana on youth suffering 
with mental conditions. A request for more knowledge was reflected 
across the board.

"We need to begin by clearly defining our objectives, we also need to 
ensure we are able to measure our progress toward those objects and 
to make adjustments as required," Jesseman said. "That means 
dedicating resources to collect baseline and ongoing data across 
sectors to monitor the new regulations, it also means investing in 
research to fill knowledge gaps."

Myles added Canada is already the leader regarding the chemical 
research of marijuana; there would be plenty of new jobs for those 
who are prepared to fix the genetic problems the plant faces.

"Canada is taking this very seriously, especially since it's being 
considered to being legalized for recreational use," said Myles. 
"Canada definitely is a leader and we'll see more and more of this."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom