Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jun 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: John Roe
Page: A9


Everyone is making a big fuss about July 1 this year, the country's
150th birthday.

But next year's anniversary will have a far greater impact on the
nation than this year's bash. That's the day the Trudeau government's
landmark policy to legalize weed comes into effect.

July 1, 2018, will mark a sea change after almost 100 years of
prohibition as Canada becomes the first G7 country to legalize and
regulate the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana.

The change will affect most Canadians, even those who've never dreamed
of lighting up a joint: parents, educators, people with medical
conditions or mental health troubles, anyone who could potentially
face the increased threat of those driving under the influence of marijuana.

Despite its significance, many details around this landmark policy
change remain as hazy as a smoke-filled room.

Some provinces, such as Manitoba, have expressed deep dismay at the
tight timelines Ottawa has set. The feds, however, have been clear the
deadline for legalization is firm. That insistence is unwise. All
parties agree creating a new regime governing legalized marijuana is
an enormously complex task.

Issues to be addressed cover a broad range, from the clear evidence of
harm to young brains, to the logistics of enforcement.

For example, some police forces are now testing portable screening
devices to catch those who drive while impaired from pot. But each of
the country's 180 police forces has just over a year to acquire the
devices, train officers and establish protocols for their use.

Science provides clear evidence that the brains of young people
continue to develop into their 20s and that young people who smoke
marijuana are more prone to permanent and severe problems with mental
ability and mental health. But details on how governments will inform
kids of those dangers is still lacking.

The marijuana tax regime remains murky, too. Ottawa wants to keep
cannabis taxes low, so people don't turn to illegal suppliers. Ottawa
argues provincial policing and court costs could go down with

But provinces have made it clear they feel they should have most of
the revenue, as they expect to shoulder many costs, from dependence
treatment to policing of impaired drivers and sales to minors, to
regulating sales outlets.

Municipalities have also chimed in, saying they will face new costs in
land-use regulation, business licensing and policing. There are
worries about supply. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated
655 tonnes of marijuana could be sold in the first year after
legalization. Licensed users of medical marijuana complain the current
system is often out of stock.

Health Canada will have to work overtime to ensure there are enough
legal producers to meet consumer demand or else criminals will fill
the void.

Given the array of complex issues, Ottawa's first priority should be
to ensure it comes up with the best possible regulatory regime.

Achieving that aims is far more important than meeting an artificial
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