Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Howard Elliott
Page: A13


It's not really anyone's fault that medical marijuana dispensaries
exist in a legislative Wild West zone. Dispensing medical pot to
people with the appropriate documentation is legal. Selling pot
products to anyone else is still not legal.

But it will be fairly soon, once the federal government and the
provinces get together and hammer out distribution channels and a host
of other serious questions and issues. Canada is not yet ready for
legalized marijuana. It will be soon, which is why entrepreneurs
across the nation are trying to stay ahead of the game, and
dispensaries are sprouting at a great rate. Hamilton has something
like 15, major centres such as Toronto and Vancouver have
exponentially more.

How many of these establishments are sticking to the existing rules
and only selling to people with legitimate papers authorizing medical
marijuana? How many are cutting corners by having their own "experts"
on hand to give that authorization? How many are pretty much selling
to anyone who shows up saying they have a sore back?

We don't know, and that's the problem. You can't blame entrepreneurs
for wanting to get ready for legalization. It's going to be big
business, and there will be serious money to be made. But right now,
if they do anything aside from following the rules around medical pot,
they're illegally distributing an illegal drug. Also known as

It would be easy to sit back and point the finger of blame at Ottawa.
Its long and arduous road leading to legalization has created the
atmosphere in which dispensaries are thriving. That would be wrong,
too. The moment Justin Trudeau publicly pledged to legalize - a step
that has strong public support in most quarters - this situation was
inevitable. The same thing happened in American jurisdictions that
legalized. We're among a handful of countries to do it on a national
scale, so the impact and challenges are greater.

Which brings us to enforcement. In Hamilton, city staff has been told
to step up inspections and oversight, even though the actual illegal
activity - where it exists - is the purview of the police. But police
will no doubt welcome some support on the civilian side, because they
have been directed to follow the law precisely which means more
surveillance, more raids, more charges laid and more

Trudeau says he is concerned about the so-called grey area, and he
expects police to do their job to ensure this doesn't descend into
chaos. We should expect to see ample evidence of that direction in the
weeks and months to come. Medical marijuana is supported by a
legislative framework. Everything else is not. It's against the law
and needs to be treated that way. Yes, it's an awkward time, but it's
all part of growing into a more sensible and pragmatic approach to
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