Pubdate: Mon, 03 Apr 2017
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media
Author: Ben Leeson
Page: A1


Excuse James Gough if he's more cautious and less optimistic about the
federal government's plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018.

The 54-year-old Sudburian has grown his own marijuana for years as
part of his treatment for HIV and believes anyone else should be able
to do the same.

"I don't know why these dispensary busts are still happening," said
Gough, pointing to recent raids on store-front facilities in southern
Ontario. "What a total waste of taxpayer resources.

"This is happening at a time when people are dropping like flies from
carfentanyl and fentanyl and other drugs like flakka that send people
out of their minds. It's time to stop this insanity."

Canadians gave the Liberal government a mandate for legalization,
Gough said, as it was a major plank in Justin Trudeau's election
platform. But he's concerned that people who grow or possess cannabis
are still being arrested on criminal charges while they wait for
legalization. He also worries that, even after marijuana becomes
legal, excessive regulation may affect the accessibility to quality

"We don't want any more criminalization," Gough said. "We don't want
prohibition. We're tired of it. It's a plant that has never caused one
death, ever. Can you say that about any other pharmaceutical drug,
even aspirin? No. So why are they criminalizing a plant that has never
caused one single death? It just blows me away, especially when the
Canadian people overwhelmingly voted to get this changed."

He's not convinced that cannabis grown by government-licensed
producers will be as natural or as safe as what can be grown at home.
He said when he tried such a product for about a month, it made him
very ill.

"Giving it to giant corporations is not the way to go. That's not the
way to stimulate the economy. You stimulate it by having dispensaries
where people can see what they're getting, mom and pop shops," Gough

"That's why I'm an advocate for people to grow their own, because when
you grow your own, you know what's going into that plant."

Brenda Stankiewicz. a public health nurse with the Sudbury and
District Health Unit, has her own concerns about the feds' plan for
legalization, though she believes a target date of July 1, 2018,
leaves little time to have all those concerns addressed. While the
government itself suggests medical marijuana not be made available to
anyone under 25, Stankiewicz said the health unit is concerned that
the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation has recommended
setting the national minimum age for the purchase of marijuana at 18.

"We know, from the perspective of a growing brain, that the brain
developments is not complete until age 25 and as the brain is exposed
to marijuana, we have to be really concerned about the ramifications
of that," Stankiewicz said. "From a public health perspective, when we
look at the research on it, really the suggestion is for age limits
closer to 21 to 25."

She approves of many recommendations, such as those pertaining to the
labelling of edibles, but added it isn't clear yet what dosage limits
should be.

"If I eat a brownie, it's hard for me to stop at one," Stankiewicz
said. "But if I eat a brownie that has marijuana in it, has a full
dose of marijuana in a single one, it's hard to stop at just one and
it becomes difficult for someone who's using to remember that, so it's
the dosages that are in various products and what's that legal limit
going to be, because those limits aren't established yet. Medical
research and scientific research hasn't really told us what limits
should be, so we're still working on what that could be, so while we
have some great labelling initiatives, there's more science that's
needed around that."

Nor is there an established limit when it comes to impairment,
Stankiewicz said.

"We're talking impairment simply for being on the job, doing stuff at
home," she said. "We know there are labels on prescription medication,
like 'do not use heavy equipment when you're taking this medication.'
Well, will there be similar labelling for marijuana? I'm assuming
there will be labelling that says please don't use and drive, but we
have no limit for someone getting behind the wheel after using
marijuana. Accurate testing is still being established."

That's certainly a concern for Staff Sgt. Rick Waugh of the Greater
Sudbury Police Service - in some jurisdictions where cannabis has been
legalized, increased consumption has been accompanied by an increase
in impaired driving incidents.

"Road safety is something we're definitely concerned about, and any
other spinoff crimes that come or result from somebody being under the
influence of a drug or alcohol," Waugh said. "With an increased
availability once it becomes legal, these are some of the things we're
projecting, that you could see increases in impaired operation of
motor vehicles. I know in the State of Colorado, when it became legal,
there was an increase in impaired driving and related driving offences."

Current technology allows officers to accurately test a driver's
blood-alcohol level, with established limits set for impairment, but
such tests for substances such as marijuana are still being developed.

"When we have an impaired driver we believe is impaired by drugs and
not alcohol, we have field sobriety officers specifically trained and
drug recognition experts who will get called in to do a series of
tests that will provide the reasonable probable grounds we need to lay
the charge," Waugh said. "That's what we're currently using, so I
think they want to try and find some way of getting an accurate
measurement of a person's impairment by drug through other means,
rather than just physical testing."
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