Pubdate: Mon, 24 Jul 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: John Roe
Page: A10


"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 the 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.

While Ottawa has the power to legalize recreational pot, the
provincial governments have a major role to play. 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?

The provinces also have a major role to play in keeping drug-impaired
drivers off the roadways. 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. It is pointless to continue
arresting people who use a substance Ottawa is in the process of
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