Pubdate: Fri, 24 Feb 2017
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Alistair MacGregor
Column: MP Report


The saga of the Green Tree marijuana dispensary, the West Shore RCMP
and the City of Langford is a microcosm of the Wild West cannabis
policy (or lack thereof) which has caused confusion all over Vancouver

Consider what has happened in this tale so far: Green Tree opened its
doors in January in Langford, only to get shut down the next day by
the RCMP. Only a few weeks later it is back open for business, much to
the consternation of the City of Langford, which refuses to issue a
business licence. A few days later, the West Shore RCMP move in to
shut it down again, this time arresting two people and seizing
marijuana on the premises.

How long will it stay closed? Does it make sense for it to be closed?
Isn't marijuana an illegal substance? Didn't the federal government
promise to legalize marijuana a long time ago? What is going on here?
We have so many unanswered questions.

I have spoken to constituents who thought marijuana became legal the
first day of the current government's mandate. I have spoken to law
enforcement officials who have at times been unsure as to whether to
enforce marijuana infractions. I have spoken to local government
officials who have varied opinions on whether business licences should
be issued to dispensaries, and I have spoken to Health Canada-licenced
medical marijuana producers who have made significant capital
investments to comply with federal rules, and are threatened by those
who do not.

Confusion reigns supreme due to the cannabis policy vacuum created by
the federal government, in spite of the fact that marijuana is a
"Schedule" drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The
federal government has committed to legalize marijuana - this much we
know. But how is it going to happen - and when?

All we have to go on are the recommendations issued in the December
2016 report by the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and
Regulation. Ironically, one of the report's recommendations stresses
the "importance of communicating early, consistently and often with
the general public."

In the absence of federal direction or leadership, local
municipalities and police forces are trying to fill the void, often
with conflicting approaches. Look no further than the City of
Victoria's moves to regulate the 35 marijuana dispensaries that are
operating within its borders. Victoria police are allowing these
businesses to operate.

Legalizing and regulating marijuana is a complicated task. As a
parent, I want assurances that access to marijuana for kids and youth
is restricted. I want to make sure that the health impacts, especially
on mental health, are thoroughly investigated and mitigated. I want to
see strategies implemented to limit high-potency products and restrain
problematic use, such as over-consumption and impaired driving.

The previous law and order approach to marijuana did not work and it
contributed to a significant black market controlled by criminal

I support the government's plans to legalize and regulate marijuana.
Until the government's plans materialize, something must be done in
the interim to give clarification to businesses, police,
municipalities and residents. As the NDP's justice critic and the
vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I
will continue to push for answers on behalf of my community.

Alistair MacGregor is Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
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MAP posted-by: Matt