Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2017
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Andrea Peacock
Page: A1


Uncertainty clouds legalization of marijuana, but all parties favour
laws to protect public

The federal government today will introduce legislation to legalize
marijuana by July 2018, but local candidates in the May 9 provincial
election remain largely unsure of what that will mean for Kelowna.

"We're all waiting in anticipation to see what the federal government
does and what legalization looks like at that level," said Alison
Shaw, Green candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country.

It will be up to provincial governments to decide how marijuana is
bought and sold.

"I think the same or very similar rules and regulations that surround
alcohol should be the same rules and regulations that surround
marijuana and tobacco," said Robert Mellalieu, Green candidate for
Kelowna West.

However, Mellalieu would like to see the age limit raised to 21 for

"There is some evidence that it causes problems during brain
development," he said. "That would be my only concern at this point."

Rather than being sold in liquor stores, Mellalieu said he would like
to support small, independent businesses.

"It would be nicer if the cannabis suppliers could buy directly from
the grower," he said.

Shaw said she would like to see strict regulations in place for
marijuana growers to ensure safety for users.

"It should be regulated with the same standards that our food is
regulated, if not stricter standards," she said.

Legalizing marijuana will also increase public safety by redirecting
police efforts, she said.

"In Kelowna, there seems to be a disconnect between policing and what
the police force is willing to tolerate and the new dispensaries that
are opening up in the area," said Shaw. "I think it's really important
that our police services are being used wisely in this domain. I think
decriminalization could really redirect those policing services to
things that are far more integral to maintaining community safety."

One of the issues surrounding marijuana legalization is the stigma
associated with marijuana use, said Mellalieu.

"Anyone who smokes pot is a criminal, but the only reason they're a
criminal is because we made a law that says they're a criminal," he
said. "It's become a moral issue, and it shouldn't be a moral issue.
People get entrenched in their opinions and beliefs, and it's very
hard to change people's minds, no matter what evidence you present

The BC NDP is waiting until the federal legislation comes out before
disclosing specific plans and opinions about the distribution of
marijuana, said Erik Olesen, candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country.

"Until we as a party see the federal legislation, it's hard to say
where it's going to be sold, what the age limit will be, how it should

be taxed, labelling, driving laws and stuff like that," he

The NDP supports legalizing marijuana, but residents and
municipalities need to be consulted as part of the planning process,
said Olesen.

"The province should be doing more proactive consultation on how
legalization will roll out, which Christy Clark hasn't done," he said.
"Our focus is ensuring that there is fair and effective regulation
that meets the law and ensuring people are safe and it isn't
accessible to children."

Steve Thomson, Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Mission, also said he
could not say much about the topic until the federal government
releases its legislation.

"The provincial role will depend on the federal legislation, (and) we
will work with the legislation once we see it," he said. "Our focus
has been and always will remain on health and public safety."

Potential age limits or modes of distribution are also unknown at this
time, said Thomson.

"Just as we look at the regulation of any product, whether it be
liquor or food, we want to make sure public health and safety is
protected," he said. "I think the Ministry of Health will take the
lead on that."
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