Pubdate: Sat, 15 Oct 2016
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Michael MacDonald
Page: A3


HALIFAX - The federal government's plan to legalize marijuana has some
provincial politicians raising concerns about drug-impaired driving.

Three provincial justice ministers made a point of highlighting the
issue Friday at the conclusion of a meeting in Halifax between federal
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and her provincial and
territorial counterparts.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi was the first to bring it up
during a news conference, saying his province is also keen to ensure
there are measures to protect youth and focus on harm reduction.

"We want to make sure there are appropriate safeguards at the
provincial level when it comes to protecting the vulnerable," he said.
"(We want to) ensure that we have appropriate road safety measures to
keep our roads the safest in the country."

In January, Wilson-Raybould was warned by officials that the
legalization of marijuana could lead to a spike in drug-impaired
driving cases, according to a classified briefing document obtained by
The Canadian Press.

At the time, bureaucrats told the minister there was limited data on
the topic, as only two jurisdictions in the United States have
legalized marijuana: Colorado and Washington.

In the year following marijuana legalization in Colorado, there was a
32 per cent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, the document

Friday, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said road safety was a
"paramount concern." And he said the province is looking to its own
task force to provide guidance on the issue.

"We want to make sure we reduce the prospects of criminality in this .
. It's a complex issue, particularly in this transition period
between now and whenever the legislation comes into effect."

Diana Whalen, Nova Scotia's justice minister, said the impact on
citizens' health was her top priority, but she, too, cited road safety
as a concern.

"We're working together to address the issues," said Whalen, the host
for the meeting. "We're taking a very precautionary approach with
health being a very guiding light for us."

Federal opposition critics have warned that the Liberal agenda on
legalizing cannabis is moving too quickly. And the New Democrats have
warned that the issue of road safety could be a major obstacle to the
party's support of any future bill.

As well, there remain tough questions about what constitutes a safe
level of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC - the active ingredient in
cannabis - in the body of a motorist.

In 2013, 97 per cent of accidents in Canada relating to impaired
driving were alcohol related. The other three per cent were linked to

Wilson-Raybould reminded her colleagues a federal task force is
expected to submit recommendations next month, and said Ottawa is
sticking to a plan to table legislation next spring.

"We are committed to strict regulation and restricting access,"
Wilson-Raybould said. "That has everything to do with a concerted and
productive relationship with our provincial and territorial

Liberal MP Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief and the Liberals'
point man on marijuana legalization, has said there is a need to
educate Canadians and provide the justice system with new tools.
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