Pubdate: Tue, 28 Mar 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Larry Kusch
Page: A4


PARTICIPANTS in the annual 4/20 event at the Manitoba Legislative
Building are likely to be in an even more celebratory mood this year
as the federal Liberal government is poised to introduce legislation
to make good on its promise to legalize pot.

The April 20 bash, which extols the consumption of cannabis -
especially the smoking of it - may also have a more political
undertone as local medical marijuana advocates protest a lack of
consultation by the Pallister government before introducing a bill
last week setting out new rules to deal with cannabis when
legalization occurs.

Over the weekend, the CBC reported that Ottawa is to introduce
legislation the week of April 10 that would see cannabis legalized in
Canada by July 1, 2018. The feds would license producers and ensure
the country's marijuana supply is safe, while the provinces would
decide how products are distributed and sold.

Medical marijuana users are upset that Bill 25 (The Cannabis Harm
Prevention Act), the proposed provincial law, doesn't appear to
discern between recreational users and those who consume cannabis as
medicine to treat various ailments.

And they strenuously object to a provision that would force motorists
to store cannabis products in a car's trunk, saying that oils or
capsules could be ruined in hot temperatures.

"Pot doesn't impair you the same way that alcohol does," said Steven
Stairs, a medical marijuana user who takes it to treat severe glaucoma.

He said a prescribed medicine should not be treated the same way as
booze by authorities concerned about impaired driving.

"I don't think anybody is being pulled over and being asked if they've
been taking their Tylenol. Even if you're a little sleepy at the side
of the road, no officer asks you if you've been taking your
prescription medication," said Stairs, who was a Green party candidate

Pin the last provincial and federal elections.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson, who introduced Bill 25, was not
available for comment on Monday, a cabinet communications official

Meanwhile, here is a primer for those who are looking forward to the
general legalization of marijuana:

Where will it be sold?

That is still up in the air. Former premier Greg Selinger said he'd
prefer to see Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries sell marijuana products, but
so far Brian Pallister's government has not taken a position on the
issue. The premier has been focused on safety issues, such as how to
guard against folks driving while under the influence. A federal task
force recommended that cannabis be sold in storefronts, but not in the
same places as liquor or cigarettes.

Will we be able to grow it at home?

According to the CBC report, Ottawa will allow Canadians to grow up to
four plants per household at any one time.

How much will it cost?

The provinces will have the right to set the price. Taxes will be
added to that. A medical marijuana user told the Free Press the cost
of growing a gram of pot is roughly $2 to $4. If purchased from a
dispensary, the cost is $8 to $12 a gram, depending on quality.
According to a recent report by, which tracks retail
prices in Colorado, flower gram prices range from US$5.44 to US$13.76.

What will the age limit be?

Ottawa will set the minimum age for purchasing marijuana at 18, but
leave it up to the provinces to set a higher age limit if they wish.
The Canadian Medical Association, which represents the country's
physicians, has suggested a minimum age of 21 for marijuanaconsumers.
In an interview last November, Pallister said he was unsure whether a
minimum age higher than 18 would be wise or doable. He said he was
very concerned about any policies that would drive sales

What about driving?

The rules governing cannabis consumption and driving are still in
development. Last week, the provincial government began to set ground
rules. Bill 25 would allow for 24-hour licence suspensions if a police
officer believed a driver was under the influence of the drug and
unable to operate a vehicle safely. Cannabis would also have to be
stored in a secure compartment, such as the trunk of a car, so that it
would be inaccessible to anyone riding in the vehicle.

Authorities are concerned about the lack of adequate testing to
measure impairment from marijuana. What is a safe level? Those
discussions are ongoing between government and police forces and
stakeholders such as MADD Canada.

How much tax revenue will it generate?

That's the $64 question - or maybe the $64-million question. Taxing a
new legal product with enormous sales potential could be an important
revenue stream for a province that is struggling to balance its
budget. The feds will also want their take. The tricky thing is where
to set the tax bar. The province has been attempting to lower
expectations that legalized marijuana will be a huge government
money-maker. Pallister said the fear is if taxes are too high - and
the total cost is too burdensome - buyers will seek underground
markets as they already have done with cigarettes. In Colorado, a
state with 5.4 million people, where marijuana possession has been
legal since 2012 and stores have been licensed to sell it since 2014,
sales eclipsed $1 billion last year. The state raked in $200 million
in taxes.
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