Pubdate: Sat, 15 Oct 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Michael MacDonald
Page: A24


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 the 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 the legalization
of marijuana could lead to a spike in drug-impaired driving cases,
says 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

On Friday, British Columbia 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 that 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. Anything we do
will be done with that in mind... The issue of road safety remains a
concern on the policing side."

Opposition critics have warned the Liberal agenda on legalizing
cannabis is moving too quickly.

And the New Democrats have warned 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 collisions 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 she confirmed
Ottawa is sticking to its 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.

When other provincial justice and public safety ministers were asked
their opinion of the federal's government's handling of the marijuana
file, only two others came forward.
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