Pubdate: Tue, 30 May 2017
Source: St. Thomas Times-Journal (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: Laura Broadley


The Liberals' promise to legalize marijuana has its champions and its
critics. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, Karen Vecchio, MP
for Elgin-Middlesex-London, wants to hear from you.

"I really want to hear from the public. I know there's lots of people
who are supportive of this, that think that it's been long time
coming. There are other people who have some great concerns with it.
And I want to make sure we hear from the right people," Vecchio said.

Vecchio is holding a town hall meeting on June 15 in St. Thomas to
discuss the Liberal government's legislation that would see marijuana
legalized in July 2018.

"This legislation came back out in April and right now within the
House of Commons we're going to be starting this, we're going to be
having debate on it … And I think within the legislation I personally
see some things that need to be worked on," Vecchio said.

One of Vecchio's concerns is surrounding youth and their ability to
access marijuana. She said she wants marijuana education to go
hand-in-hand with the legalization. There was money in the 2017 budget
for marijuana education over five years, but Vecchio said she sees
that as being backwards considering marijuana is set to be legalized
next year.

Vecchio said her other issue is with people who are impaired by
marijuana getting behind the wheel of a car.

"We have to recognize that cannabis affects people very, very
differently and it can't be measured like alcohol," Vecchio said.

The town hall meeting will have four panelists that include: Dr. Chris
Mackie from the Middlesex health unit; Lisa Gunn, a criminal lawyer in
St. Thomas; a member of the St. Thomas police; and someone that deals
with social work or addiction.

"I think it's really important that we have this conversation. Get rid
of some of the myths that may be out there ... regarding not only the
legislation but cannabis so that we have an educated conversation.
I'll be taking all of that information back and providing it both to
the minister of health and the minister of justice," Vecchio said.

Vecchio said she agrees with the NDP's position on the
decriminalization of marijuana.

"I'm not totally for legalization, but I'm definitely for
decriminalization of marijuana. But we have to make sure that we get
it right, and my concern is that we're going to have legislation but
we're not going to have all of the … supports that we need with this
legislation," Vecchio said.

Vecchio said there is a lot of responsibility being downloaded on the
province and municipalities.

Vecchio, the official opposition critic for Families, Children and
Social Development, has been outspoken in the past about what she sees
as the Liberals' lenient position on drugs. In particular, she's
spoken out about the Liberals' drug strategy that would make it easier
for municipalities to open supervised injection sites for drug users.

"I think the community must have a say. If there's going to be an
injection site put into a community we need to make sure that the
community members are aware of it and it's the best place for it as
well," Vecchio said. "We need to have wraparound services. So, it
can't be just about going in there and being able to have a safe
injection site."

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If you go

What: MP Karen Vecchio community town hall on the legalization of marijuana

When: Thurs. June 15, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: CASO Station, 750 Talbot St., St. Thomas
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MAP posted-by: Matt