Pubdate: Sat, 15 Apr 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Greg Mercer
Page: A1
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Chief Larkin says 'home (pot) farmers' a worry, as Liberal, Tory MPs
at odds

WATERLOO REGION - Waterloo Region's top law enforcement official says
"society has spoken" and his officers will be ready for the
legalization of recreational marijuana by next summer.

But Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin still has concerns
about the challenges to police trying to catch people who toke and
drive - and keep an eye on all the potential "home farmers" who might
want to grow their own marijuana plants.

The proposed legislation, revealed Thursday by the Trudeau government,
is a massive overhaul of Canada's drug laws that will make it legal
for those aged 18 and older to grow, buy and use recreational marijuana.

Chief Larkin says legalization will switch the police's focus to
organized crime and the black market that traffics marijuana, but it
still presents some hurdles to officers who have to enforce the new
rules among ordinary citizens.

One of his biggest worries in the proposed legislation is the part
that would allow Canadians to grow up to four plants for their own
use. Personal plants are hard to control - and hard to keep out of the
hands of youth.

"We have concerns about that, because how do you regulate that, how do
you monitor that? "How do you prescribe what's in it? And does that
also provide an opportunity for the black market, for youth?" Larkin

"I'm hoping, like making your own beer and wine at home, that it's not
that good and you just go to the store to buy it."

There also will be new costs to police as the law changes, he said.
The devices officers will use to detect drug-impaired drivers costs
about $4,000 each, and will require specialized training, too - things
that put a squeeze on resources.

And it all needs to be done in little over a year, given Ottawa's
tight timeline.

"That's a significant challenge to the budget," he said. "Some of
those pieces are worrisome, some of those are concerning … but none of
it is insurmountable."

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht, meanwhile, said the Liberals
are rushing ahead with legalization without fully considering the
consequences for Canadians, whether it's protecting people from
impaired drivers or keeping children safe.

"My biggest concern is for the safety of our kids and youth," said
Albrecht, with the caveat that he had only time to quickly skim the
120-page document before being asked to comment.

"I'm not in favour of this in any shape or form. I don't know any
parents who are trying to make recreational drugs more available. To
me, this is sending the message that marijuana use is normal."

The Conservative member of Parliament worries all the costs of
enforcing the new marijuana laws, from Canadians growing their own
plants to getting behind the wheel, will be passed onto

"How are we going to monitor all that? What kind of extra police
services will be need to hire to monitor that. My concern is the costs
will be out of proportion," Albrecht said.

The Liberals are proposing changes to the Criminal Code to punish
anyone who would provide marijuana to youth or sell the product
outside the new legal regime - including maximum penalties of 14 years
in jail to anyone who sells or gives cannabis to a youth.

The legislation also proposes penalties of up to three years in jail,
or fines of $5 million, to anyone who creates cannabis products geared
toward youth.

Bardish Chagger, the Liberal House leader and Waterloo's MP, said
legalization is actually about protecting youth.

"We know that the current system is failing our kids. That's why it's
important to legalize, strictly control and regulate access to
marijuana to keep it out of the hands of our children, and keep
profits out of the pockets of organized crime," she said.

"The reality is, in many cases, it's easier for our kids to buy
cannabis than cigarettes."

The Liberals have also promised a public education campaign about the
dangers of early and prolonged marijuana use, its ability to impair
drivers' judgment, and fund more research into the health impacts of
marijuana use.

Many of the decisions around how and where marijuana will be sold,
where it can be consumed, will be left up to the provinces. There are
many unanswered questions about what legalization will look like.

But Kitchener-based medical marijuana advocate Pete Thurley doesn't
think the government is rushing ahead. Instead, he wishes the
legislation focused less on a "tough on crime" approach and more on
the therapeutic benefits of the drug.

The tens of thousands of Canadians who are medical cannabis users
still don't have answers around what legalization will mean for access
and affordability of cannabis, he said.

Right now, medical cannabis can only legally be bought by a mail-order
system through a licensed producer.

"It's a step forward," Thurley said. "But the feds really downloaded
most of the important operational details to the provinces. And no
changes were made to the medical regime. It's as if medical marijuana
didn't even exist."

The federal government also says it wants to ensure there are enough
licensed producers in the country to meet demand once legalization
arrives. That means the 42 companies that already have authorization
from Health Canada to produce medical marijuana - including
Kitchener's James E. Wagner Cultivation - will have a leg up on the
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