Pubdate: Wed, 05 Apr 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Tonda MacCharles
Page: A6


Steps should be taken to prepare for legalization, task force co-chair

OTTAWA - Canada should immediately boost spending on intensive public
education and research into the impacts of marijuana and not wait
until 2018 when cannabis is legalized, says the co-chair of Ottawa's
pot task force.

Dr. Mark Ware, a professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill
University, told a drug policy conference in Ottawa that a bill to
overhaul Canada's marijuana law is just the first step of what he
predicts will be an "unbelievably deep and tangled web" with
provinces, territories and municipalities who will be responsible for
much of the scheme.

Meanwhile, Ware said, "research and education needs to be provided.
This is something I'm still pushing for."

"I haven't felt, yet, that we have capacity to support this kind of
legislative change in terms of measuring and understanding what the
impact of this is on individual health and on public health."

Ware was among dozens of experts at a conference on the future of drug
policy in Canada looking at medium and long-term recommendations for

But Ware had advice for the short term.

Canada needs a "lot more infrastructure" to support the nests of "very
good researchers around the country," who are studying plant sciences,
pharmacology and clinical research as well as policy, "but they're not
well connected, and we're not talking to one another," said Ware.

He said for the legalization policy "to be rolled out and be
implemented effectively and to respond to the realities that we get
when it's launched, we need that network to be in place."

Ware also said provinces and municipalities need support to ensure
they have the "required elements for licensing, for regulating, for

Many at the conference supported the federal Liberal government's
desire to reduce the harm associated with illegal cannabis sales and

However Mark Kleiman, a professor of public service at New York
University's Marron Institute of Urban Management, had a stern warning.

"Legalization and regulation are not a panacea. There is not a
solution to the drug problem that consists of getting the criminal law
out of the way and turning it over to the doctors and the public
health folks."
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