Pubdate: Thu, 21 Apr 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Joanna Smith


On A Day When Cannabis Culture Is Celebrated, Ottawa Announces Next
Step In The March To Pot Legalization

OTTAWA - As thousands of people were preparing to gather in the
sunshine on the lawn of Parliament Hill for the annual celebration of
cannabis culture - and smoke a little, too, in plain view of the
police - the Liberal government formally announced its plans to
legalize and regulate marijuana.

"We know it is impossible to arrest our way out of this problem,"
Health Minister Jane Philpott said Wednesday in New York during an
impassioned speech to the United Nations General Assembly at a special
session on global drug policy.

The timing of the announcement on April 20 - or 420, as pot activists
and connoisseurs call this calendar day - was a coincidence, more than
one government source insisted, but still a fitting day to reveal
plans to make good on a major campaign promise to legalize, regulate
and restrict access to marijuana.

"Our approach to drugs must be comprehensive, collaborative and
compassionate. It must respect human rights while promoting shared
responsibility, and it must have a firm scientific foundation,"
Philpott said in her prepared remarks. The legislation to be
introduced next spring and the regulations that follow it will be
designed to keep marijuana away from both children and organized
crime, said Philpott, whose speech drew upon her experience as a
doctor in Africa as she spoke about the impacts of ineffective drug

"While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are
convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing
public safety," Philpott said.

"Canada will continue to modernize our approach to drug policy.
Building on our successes, such as (safe injection sites), our work
will embrace upstream prevention, compassionate treatment and harm
reduction," she said.

The Liberal government will be launching a task force within the next
few weeks to closely examine and evaluate every aspect of their goal
to legalize, regulate and restrict access tomarijuana.

"We will task them with a very specific set of questions around how it
will be produced, where it will be accessed and sold and around
questions of taxation," Philpott told the CBC in an interview from New

The draft regulations, which will govern everything from standards for
packaging and labelling to exactly how to prevent it from being sold
to minors, will be open to comment from Canadians.

Clive Weighill, president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police, said he hopes his organization will be invited to sit on the
task force.

The current period, however, leaves the police in a bit of a "grey
zone" - police know marijuana will be legalized eventually, but they
also need to enforce the law as it stands now.

"It's a tough time for us to be in right now, because people are
expecting it to be legalized. I've never in my career come up against
a law that we know is imminently going to be changed and is causing
this much consternation," said Weighill.

"We're trying to work with the Canadian public on this. We understand
it is going to be legalized, but we really are in a grey zone right
now and we are really just asking the public to bear with us," he said.

"We are going to do our job and we'll get through it."

That strange interim period had NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair calling for
immediate decriminalization, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
rejected as irresponsible.

"The fact of the matter is decriminalization, as the member proposes,
actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations.
That is not what anyone wants in this country," Trudeau said during
question period.

Quebec Conservative MP Gerard Deltell, however, said the Liberals were
the ones putting children and youth at risk.

"That's one of the worst things you can do to the Canadian youth, to
open the door to marijuana," he said.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D