Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jul 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Page: A9


THE Manitoba government will never have enough time to study and
prepare for the impending legalization of marijuana.

At least, that's how Canadian cannabis advocate and president of
Winnipeg 420's organizing committee, Steven Stairs, sees it.

Marijuana is already here, he said, and legalization won't change the
fact that for years people have been buying and selling it, smoking
and ingesting it.

"They're fostering the black market right now," Stairs said of the
government's slow response to legalization.

"They're not hindering it - if anything they're perpetuating

Medical marijuana users and recreational users have had access to the
drug for years, ordering an assortment of pot strains and
cannabis-infused chocolates, honey and candies off the internet and
having them shipped to their front door.

"Lots of people have been in this community for 10, 15, 20 years
even," Stairs said.

Businesses have sprung up from nothing but a guy who grows plants and
takes email money transfers in exchange for carefully packaged
marijuana shipped in one to three days.

"With legalization coming, everybody who wants to be involved in
cannabis is doing it," he said. "They're getting involved whether or
not that means advocacy, whether that means trying to put together a
businessÂ… people are already jumping the gun because they want to be
on the ground floor."

Consumers who smoke, can pick a strain off the internet based on
fellow smokers' reviews. Those more inclined to eat their way to a
high, can choose chocolate bars and cereal bars, discrete hard candies
and lollipops. There are even gluten-free, vegan options.

But so far, the Manitoba government's approach to legalization has
focused less on the business side and more on safety concerns.

In the spring, it introduced the Cannabis Harm Reduction Act. It
proposes rules around consumption and storage when people are
operating vehicles and would also allow the cops to suspend a person's
driving privileges for 24 hours if they believe them to be under the
influence of marijuana.

So far, the government hasn't seemed to want to listen to the people
and companies that have been involved in the industry for a while,
Stairs said.

"It's almost like parents when you were younger saying, 'Yeah, you
heard me, but did you actually listen to what I was saying?' They
don't listen," he said.

The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba is looking for a company
to conduct 15-minute surveys with Manitobans about their marijuana use
and what sort of rules they would like to see governing the use of
recreational pot when it becomes legalized in 2018.

"We don't have a great understanding about cannabis as a substance and
how people use it," the authority's communications and research
manager, Kristianne Dechant, told The Canadian Press this week.

"And this is really unlike with liquor and gambling - which are two
products that we currently regulate - where we have a great
understanding about the gaps in people's knowledge."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt