Pubdate: Thu, 07 Sep 2017
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2017 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Page: A8


While it's a good idea for the Prince Edward Island government to seek
public input on plans to legalize marijuana, the broad strokes of any
such legislation are very likely already written.

Last week, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said his government is seeking
Islanders' thoughts on what cannabis legislation should look like, an
engagement process that's long overdue since Ottawa tabled its
intentions in early April to legalize and regulate cannabis by July 1,
2018. Legalization is a federal decision but many of the rules and
regulations fall under provincial responsibility so the 10 provinces
are scrambling to deal with Ottawa's proposals. Most complain the
narrow window won't allow enough time to get proper public health,
pubic safety and public education guidelines in place.

The provinces have been willing to accept the costs associated with
legalization because they feel that tax revenues will become a major
cash windfall.

In Atlantic Canada, it's essential there are uniform rules and
regulations to streamline enforcement so it's surprising the premiers
have not been more co-operative. The premiers had no problem
harmonizing their HST rates, so what kept them from agreeing to common
legislation on marijuana when regional enforcement is so critical?

Newfoundland and Labrador was first off the mark and last week a New
Brunswick legislature committee brought in its report. Now P.E.I. is
seeking public input leading towards legislation in the spring.

Marijuana will be subject to the same rigid restrictions as both
alcohol and tobacco. Booze is unacceptable anywhere near the workplace
and smoking is banned from public areas. So marijuana will be largely
limited to one's property or residence. Impaired driving by drugs will
be subject to the same stringent enforcement as alcohol.

The P.E.I. government wants to ensure that cannabis legalization keeps
drugs away from young people, protects public health, and promotes
safety on our roads, in workplaces and in public spaces. Those issues
have already been dealt with in two other Atlantic provinces. A joint
committee under the Council of Atlantic Premiers might have achieved
common regulations and proposals.

The N.B. committee is recommending the province sell marijuana through
government-operated stores to anyone 19 years or older - thus
harmonizing it with alcohol and tobacco. Government stores offers the
best compromise to restrict youth access to recreational cannabis and
ensure prices can compete with the illegal market.

N.B. is really pushing the cannabis envelope. Marijuana production is
touted as a pillar of its economic strategy; the government has worked
to lure producers to the province; and has developed a community
college program for cannabis technicians. Premier MacLauchlan might
not be quite so liberal-minded but he accepts the fact that marijuana
is in wide use. And he notes that legislation could certainly change
as conditions warrant. Prohibition ended 70 years ago but the rules
involving alcohol are amended almost yearly.

Legalization is coming and it's best we deal with it rationally. And
who knows, perhaps we'll see a P.E.I. Liquor, Tobacco and Marijuana
Commission in place next spring?
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MAP posted-by: Matt