Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2017
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Windsor Star
Author: Doug Schmidt
Page: A3
Referenced: Cannabis Act:


Chill out, Windsor.

The head of the task force which recommended Canada legalize cannabis
said cities like Windsor need to prepare but that they shouldn't fear
going to pot.

While "people are right to be concerned" about how Ottawa proceeds
with legalization and regulation, Anne McLellan told the Star that
members of her task force were satisfied that places like Colorado and
Washington - two of a growing number of American states where pot has
been legalized - are going in the right direction.

Shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month that
Canada will become the second country in the world to make the
growing, possession and use of cannabis for personal use legal by July
1, 2018, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens described a trip to Denver,
Colorado, last summer and how "the riff-raff and the undesirables were
rampant." His comments caused a bit of a media stir in the state that
ended marijuana prohibition four years ago.

McLellan said half her task force visited Denver and returned with
useful information and no horror stories. She and the other half of
the task force visited Seattle and Olympia in Washington State, cities
she had visited before.

"Honestly, I don't think any of us noticed any difference to what was
going on there ... previously," she said.

McLellan was speaking Friday at the University of Windsor's
Transnational Criminal Law in the Americas conference on the topic of
>From Prohibition to Regulation - the Way Forward. The former deputy
prime minister and attorney general, who also held the justice and
health portfolios during her tenure in government, once described
marijuana as a "scourge" but in December reported back that
legalization was the way to go.

The key, she said, is a proper regulatory regime that keeps cannabis
out of the hands of children and youth and organized crime. Among the
task force's 80 recommendations: pot to remain illegal for those under
18 (provinces can set a higher age limit); additional supports for
police and public education; tougher criminal penalties for everything
from selling to minors to driving while impaired; no pot sales near
such locations as schools, churches and community centres or where
liquor is sold.

"This is going to happen ... everybody needs to be aware of the
implications," she said.

While the federal and provincial governments have much to do in
setting rules and guidelines, McLellan said municipalities and their
police departments need to get started at the local level. The former
Alberta MP said her city of Edmonton has already begun a review of
municipal bylaws. She said municipalities, for example, can decide
where to permit retail outlets, but she warns that it's "a very bad
idea" to concentrate them all in a single district.

In her Windsor lecture, McLellan compared Canada's current cannabis
regime to the one that existed during Prohibition nearly a century
ago. Addiction, delinquent behaviour and work absenteeism were some of
the reasons for making booze illegal, but she said the resulting
unintended consequences included the growth of organized crime,
disrespect for the law and courthouse backlogs.

"Prohibition made drinking cool," she said, adding that the costs of
criminalizing alcohol became greater than the benefits.

McLellan said the nine-member task force received about 30,000
submissions from the public and heard from representatives of
approximately 350 organizations. She said the medical community
initially wanted the minimum age set at 25, but then compromised and
suggested 21. The policing community was concerned about gauging
impairment and with the recommendation to permit people to grow their
own cannabis at home.

McLellan explained that Canadian 18-year-olds can vote and join the
military without parental consent, and many at that age can legally
smoke tobacco and purchase alcohol. She said many illegal users grow
their own pot and that 18- to 25-year-olds represent the largest
cohort of cannabis consumers. Setting the minimum age at above 18, she
added, would mean continuing to see large numbers of youths in the
criminal justice system for simple possession.
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