Pubdate: Tue, 28 Mar 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Page: A6


This July 1 is Canada's big 150th-birthday bash. But July 1, 2018
could be a more interesting celebration. That's the date, according to
reports, when marijuana might finally be legal. In a weekend news leak
that had the added benefit of diverting attention from an insipid
federal budget, CBC reported the Liberal government will unveil its
marijuana legalization bill in the next few weeks. Under it, federal
authorities would take charge of licensing producers and regulating

It would set 18 as the minimum legal age for use, though provinces
could set it higher.

Unveiling the bill would be only the start: Justin Trudeau must still
get it through tough scrutiny by a Commons committee, then pass the
uncertain hurdle of Senate signoff.

The sooner legislation is unveiled, the better. Provincial attorneys
general, such as Ontario's Yasir Naqvi, have been chairing their own
ministerial and expert groups to develop a robust provincial
regulatory system, no easy task given a) they haven't seen the federal
bill yet; and b) pop-up marijuana shops continue to proliferate. (In
an interview Monday, Naqvi stressed that these businesses are still
illegal. He made no suggestion that prosecutions should stop.)

Ontario's priorities in regulating cannabis will be: protecting youth
and vulnerable people; promoting health and safety, including road
safety; and prevention and harm reduction.

All of that will cost money, so a good chunk of the anticipated tax
revenue from marijuanasales will be swallowed up quickly. What else
might the federal bill - and corresponding provincial regulations -
look like? If they follow, as they should, the recent recommendations
of the federal cannabis task force chaired by Anne McLellan, we might
see the following:

- - municipal smoking bans and regulations extended to cannabis and
vaping of cannabis products;

- - plain packaging, and very strict labelling rules;

- - tax revenue from cannabis sales split between the federal government
and the provinces, then dedicated to education, prevention and treatment;

- - cannabis not permitted to be sold anywhere near where liquor or
tobacco products are purchased. While some have mused about selling
marijuana via the LCBO, the McLellan task force recommended strongly
against that sort of combination. Naqvi could not say how Ontario
plans to permit sales; he needs more details from the feds first.

Driving is still a big question; how to accurately tell if someone is
impaired from marijuana use? Ontario has already changed the Highway
Traffic Act to allow those "impaired" to be charged, not just those

But more science is needed here. We favour pot legalization. The
sooner the government clears the haze around its bill, the better.

- - Christina Spencer for the Citizen editorial board
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