Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jul 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Page: A8


"Go slow … take your time," is the excellent advice Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau was given last year on his plan to legalize
recreational marijuana in Canada.

The speaker was none other than Anne McLellan, leader of the federal
government's task force on the issue, and her message was do your
homework and get the job right first time around.

The caution from this former Liberal deputy prime minister was wise

It seems even more urgent now after nine Canadian premiers told the
prime minister last week they have so many concerns about his promise
to legalize recreational pot starting July 1, 2018, that they may ask
him to postpone the change. Trudeau's target date, they warned, "may
be unrealistic." Trudeau immediately quashed the possibility of any
delay in keeping a major election promise and meeting his deadline -
arbitrary though the latter is. That was a mistake. The premiers'
questions are legitimate, significant and need answers. Without those
answers, the deadline should be put back. While Ottawa has the power
to legalize recreational pot (medicinal marijuana is already
permitted) the provincial governments have a major role to play after
prohibition ends.

And it could take more than the 11 months before the current
legalization deadline for them to be fully prepared.

The provinces, not Ottawa, will be responsible for the sale of
recreational marijuana.

But should it be done by government-run outlets - such as the Liquor
Control Board of Ontario stores - or private retailers - such as the
ones running Ontario's Beer Stores?

It may be impossible to get these outlets in place with trained staff
and an established supply change within 11 months.

Meanwhile, what will the price be and who will set it? If a gram of
pot costs too much at a government-authorized store, black-market
criminals will be ready with a cut-rate product.

The same danger exists regarding government taxation. But can Ottawa
and the provinces agree on appropriate tax rates by next July?

Meanwhile, the provinces will be responsible for deciding the age at
which people will be allowed to use recreational pot.

But what will that age be, especially considering that the medical
community has warned cannabis can harm developing teenage brains?

And shouldn't the age be consistent across Canada to prevent young
people from one province travelling to a neighbouring province for a
legal high?

The provinces also have a major role to play in keeping drug-impaired
drivers off the highways.

But many premiers reasonably wonder if an accurate system for testing
drivers can be implemented in time for Trudeau's deadline.

It's understandable that after being hammered for breaking election
promises on democratic reform and the size of federal deficits Trudeau
would be adamant about keeping this one.

But he could delay the implementation date by a year or more and still
have marijuana legalized by the 2019 general election.

Finally, while that law is coming, Trudeau should consider
decriminalizing pot for individual users.

There's no need to continue arresting or convicting people who use a
substance Ottawa is in the process of legalizing.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt