Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jul 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Mike Hager
Page: A4


Canada's premiers say they will not be ready for the legalization of
cannabis next summer if Ottawa does not clarify how to solve several
public-health issues associated with ending 94 years of prohibition,
such as how to prevent people from driving while high.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told the closing news conference at the
leaders' annual summer meeting in Edmonton that provinces need
guidance on five problems: road safety and enforcement, preparation
and training on distribution, taxation, public education, and how
supply and demand of the legal drug might affect the black market. It
is still possible that recreational cannabis will be available to all
Canadians by July 1, 2018, she said, but much more work needs to be
done over the next year if the provinces are to be ready.

"Premiers around this table agreed that, should the federal government
not engage adequately on these issues, we will need more time to
implement the federal government's decision," Ms. Notley said. "We
expect, with the greatest respect, that the Prime Minister will review
the concerns that have been delineated in our communique, because they
are not insignificant."

Earlier in the day, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister failed to get his
counterparts to issue a joint call for the federal government to delay
by a year the implementation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's pledge
to legalize the drug so that the potential harms of legalization can
be better minimized.

"He needs to then hear what the premiers of his country - our country
- - have said we need help with," Mr. Pallister said. "There are a
number of significant and serious public policy issues here. They need
to be addressed. They should be addressed co-operatively."

Instead of calling for a delay, the premiers agreed to form a working
group to identify common concerns, seek answers from Ottawa and to
provide recommendations by November on how best to legalize the drug.

To date, the federal government has indicated that it will leave the
contentious issues of regulating the wholesale distribution and
retailing of cannabis up to the provinces and territories, a move that
industry insiders and academics have predicted could hamper the
uniform rollout of legalization across all jurisdictions.

The federal task force report guiding the government's legalization of
cannabis recommended against selling the drug in liquor stores,
stating concerns that mixing alcohol and marijuana leads to higher
levels of intoxication. Before the task force issued its report last
December, politicians in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario
floated the idea of selling cannabis at such government-run outlets.
Pharmacies, or private shops such as dispensaries that are currently
illegal under federal drug laws, are also possible venues, according
to experts.

Asked about the premiers' concerns on Wednesday in Quebec City, Mr.
Trudeau said the goal is still to have the law passed by next summer.
He said that young people have easy access to marijuana now but should
not, and criminals and streets gangs are making millions through
illegal sales.

"We need to put an end to this policy that does not work," Mr. Trudeau

Michael DeVillaer, a drug-policy expert at McMaster University, said
the premiers are wise to call for help on this complex file because,
inevitably, they and municipal politicians will have to solve problems
related to making cannabis legal. He said that the three most widely
used legal drugs - tobacco, alcohol and opioids - have all produced
massive public-health costs related to harms such as lung cancer,
injuries caused by excessive drinking and an epidemic of fatal overdoses.

"What we're seeing in the big picture is three legal, profit-driven
drug industries and we have three public health crises," Prof.
DeVillaer said. "So it would be naive to assume this one is going to
go swimmingly without problems."

- - With a report from The Canadian Press
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