Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jul 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Carl DeGurse
Page: A7


WILL you partake? That's a reasonable question given the upcoming
legalization of marijuana, but it's only one of many questions that
will arise.

The legalization of a recreational drug is extremely rare and it will
challenge both the Pallister government and individual Manitobans with
unaccustomed issues. The government is dealing only with legalities,
leaving individuals on their own to resolve the personal, family and
social issues that will come with legal marijuana.

At their meeting in Edmonton last week, the premiers mulled questions
such as: where and how will it be sold? What will be the legal age to
partake? How will courts prosecute drugged driving, given that
breathalyzers don't work with marijuana intoxication? How many plants
will gardeners be allowed to grow on their own?

But the governmental guidance will end with the legal structure. After
that, it will be up to Manitobans to deal with the many ethical and
practical ramifications.

For example, parents will want to reconsider the don't-do-drugs talk
they traditionally give teenagers. A reliable argument for parents has
always been that it's illegal, so don't risk a criminal record. But,
robbed of that reason, parents will face teens who believe marijuana
can't be so bad if it's legalized.

When it comes to alcohol, some parents already introduce their
underage children to alcohol at home, where it's safe. To celebrate
special occasions with the adults, they let the children try a small
glass of beer or watered-down wine. The parents hope that teaching
children to drink sensibly will lessen the chances they will drink
stupidly when they reach the legal drinking age of 18. After July 1,
parents will face another decision: should they also demonstrate to
their children how to use marijuana sensibly?

Many adults already use marijuana secretly, and some have done so for
decades. They aren't necessarily potheads, but marijuana is their drug
of choice, perhaps after a stressful week at work and after the kids
are asleep. Some of them keep it secret because they hold responsible
positions such as teachers, police officers, counsellors, media
personalities, athletes and politicians. Legalization will bring them
to a decision: should they come out?

Among the marijuana users eager for legalization are the hundreds of
thousands of Canadians who have been convicted for possession of a
plant that will no longer be illegal. They hope for an amnesty that
removes their criminal records, although the Trudeau government has
resisted that suggestion.

Decisions about marijuana will also be faced by the large number of
people who tried it, and liked it, back in the day. Perhaps they don't
currently use it because they don't have a source to buy it illegally,
or because they fear illegal marijuana could be spiked with something
like fentanyl, or because they're not tobacco smokers so puffing a
joint makes them cough. These people might welcome quality-controlled
stores that sell edible marijuana, which is as easy as eating a cookie.

With people using marijuana overtly, it will bring etiquette questions
to social situations.

As a personal example, I don't drink alcohol but dinner parties at my
home include wine for the guests, and my backyard barbecues include
iced beer and coolers. A host should anticipate and supply the wishes
of his guests. Will my social gatherings now require edible marijuana
to be served as an hors d'oeuvre to heighten appetites?

To anticipate the many consequences that legal marijuana will have on
Manitoba, we look for precedents, such as when Prohibition ended 97
years ago and Manitobans could legally use alcohol. This could help us
predict the future effects of legalized marijuana.

The positive impacts of legalizing alcohol included a more reliable
quality of the drug when it was controlled by government instead of by
bootleggers, a revenue boon to governments from taxation and easy
availability of a drug that is used responsibly by the vast majority
of Manitobans who choose to drink.

The negative impacts of legalizing alcohol included drunk-driving
crashes, domestic violence and alcohol dependency by a small
percentage of users.

When marijuana use comes out in the open on July 1, some people will
worry about the possible consequences, and some people will celebrate
by lighting up. In all cases, the legalization of another recreational
drug will change our personal, family and social lives in ways we
should be thinking about.
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