Pubdate: Sat, 15 Apr 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Nick Martin & Ashley Prest
Page: A3
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Province has concerns about pot legalization but next moves remain

MANITOBA - Justice Minister Heather Stefanson says she has "lots of
concerns" with the federal government's new legalized marijuana
legislation tabled Thursday, but won't speculate publicly what
Manitoba's next move will be.

"We want to listen to Manitobans and consult on that," she told
reporters Thursday.

The federal government's proposed law, which sets the minimum age to
purchase marijuana at 18, gives provinces some latitude to increase
that age, but Stefanson declined to say whether she believes 18 is too
young to buy marijuana.

"We do know that distribution will be provincial," she said, but
wouldn't say how and where legal marijuana would be sold, or taxes the
province might raise from pot.

Within the legislation are hefty penalties for impaired driving. Once
passed, the new law would allow police to use screening devices to
check for marijuana impairment, while also creating new driving
offences for those caught driving while impaired by pot.

In Manitoba, tests are still being conducted on devices that can be
used to measure impairment of drivers who've used marijuana, Stefanson
said. "This will have a cost to our police services. We know how
expensive it is to train officers in roadside testing, sobriety testing."

NDP justice critic Andrew Swan told reporters it's important to
understand marijuanaimpairment and to avoid criminalizing drivers with
a trace of pot in their systems.

"We'll need to study it more closely," said Swan. "It's reasonable to
have restrictions on use, like alcohol or tobacco."

Swan said it makes sense to sell legalized marijuana in specific
outlets, such as Liquor Marts.

"There are a lot of restrictions on tobacco advertising," and similar
restrictions for pot advertising need to be spelled out as well, he

Swan did express fears that the legislation could get bogged down in
the Senate.

Jeff Peitsch, CEO of the newly licensed Winnipeg medical marijuana
producer Bonify, said by email: "I support the government's objective
of preserving the public interest by protecting the general public,
including youth, from inappropriate use and distribution while
balancing the interests

Mof access with education and adherence to the highest-quality
production standards." Steven Stairs, who uses medical marijuana to
treat severe glaucoma, is happy with the bill.

"There's a lot of good that will come out of this legislation, and not
just as a medical marijuana user myself, but as a cannabis advocate,"
Stairs said. "Medical marijuana, specifically, has been a catalyst and
almost a jumping-off point for the conversations and the research and
the lack of social stigma that goes along with it, towards cannabis."

Stairs said the legislation will allow medical marijuana to users grow
their own supplies.

"They can say access is there but you still need to have a doctor sign
off on your paperwork. If you don't get that doctor, you don't have
medical marijuana. There's a big gate-keeper issue there," he said.

"This will hopefully alleviate some of that for the average Canadian
who doesn't need 25 or 50 marijuana plants to treat their condition.

"They just have a simple condition where four plants in their house,
their closet, their garage, will really help their overall health
benefits in a progressive way rather than having this limbo state
where they're constantly fighting to try to find a doctor and
therefore giving them more stress and prolonging their illness."

Roman Panchyshyn, owner of the decades-old Wild Planet on Osborne
Street, nearly shut down his business in 2014 when police were
conducting raids on head shops in the city. The legislation might keep
him around a bit longer.

"If it (legalizing marijuana) is going to increase usage, then we
would facilitate all those products for that usage. Anything moving
away from the war on drugs is a positive thing because that hasn't
worked for decades," he said. "There's a lot of issues there for
users. How clean is the product coming out of the government?

"At this point I don't have any plans to apply for a dispensary or
anything, although that's always an option on the table if that was
allowed for stores," he said.

- - with files from Martin Cash
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MAP posted-by: Matt