Pubdate: Thu, 02 Mar 2017
Source: North Bay Nugget (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 North Bay Nugget
Author: Dale Carruthers
Page: 5


With the Liberals plan to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana
still on track for the spring, MP Bill Blair, the ex-Toronto police
chief who's tasked with shaping the legislation, is travelling across
Canada to discuss the federal government's plan to legalize and
regulate the drug for recreational use.

Blair sat down with Postmedia Network.

Q: You've been meeting with stakeholders across the country to discuss
legalization. Who exactly are you meeting with and what are you hearing?

A: I've spoken to police chiefs in every community I've visited. But
I'm also speaking with mayors, with other civic officials, with people
who represent public health agencies . . . there's a strong consensus
that we must do better.

Q: According to a 2016 news report, you held a series of informal
meetings with advocates for the illegal marijuana dispensaries. What
did you take away from these meetings?

A: We've tried to listen to every voice. One of the challenges that
communities right across Canada are facing is that there are some
individuals who are ignoring the laws that currently exist . . .
Unfortunately, there are a number of individuals who have sort of
jumped ahead of any regulatory changes and are still producing and
selling marijuana illegally. I've had some discussion with
representatives of those organizations and I remind them that the laws
should be obeyed.

Q: Will there be a place for any of the existing dispensaries to sell
marijuana once it's legalized?

A: The responsibility for determining the regulatory framework and the
environment for distribution really rests with the provinces. Within
our constitution, that's their responsibility . . . whatever systems
the province choose to put in place, we want to make sure it is an
effective regime for keeping this out of the hands of kids and
competing effectively with organized crime.

Q: In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said municipalities
should "enforce the law" when dealing with illegal marijuana
dispensaries. Are you communicating this message to the police chiefs
you've met recently?

A: Police chiefs have a great deal of responsibilities. With respect
to public safety, they've got to prioritize. They (have) limited
resources for all those things that will maintain the safety of their
communities. Law enforcement is their responsibility, but they have to
set their own local priorities.

Q: Based on your experience as a former police chief, what's the
biggest impact legalization and regulation will have on policing?

A: Right now, the police are expending resources and the criminal
justice system is somewhat burdened by the enforcement of the criminal
law . . . I believe we're going to have to ask more of the police,
particularly at the introduction of these regulations, while people
learn how this system will work.

Q: Research shows that marijuana use poses a risk to developing brains
up to the age of 25. Will people under that age be able to buy marijuana?

A: There are some decisions that need to be made by both the federal
government and the provinces. There is a recommendation that we
received from the task force that suggested as a minimum age, the age
of 18, but also a recommendation that provinces could make a
determination of setting the age higher . . . It really is a decision
based on competing values: On the one hand we want to protect kids
from any potential health harm related to its use, and on the other
you don't want to (push) this mass market of young people over to
organized crime.

Q: You've previously said you've never tried marijuana. Will that
change after it's legalized?

A: No, absolutely not. And I've never used any psychoactive drug or
any illegal drug. That's a choice that I've made. I find those things
are performance degrading and I have no intention of ever using such a
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MAP posted-by: Matt