Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Daniel Leblanc
Page: A13


Fewer than one in 10 Canadians are buying the federal government's
argument that legalizing marijuana will lead to lower consumption
levels among young Canadians, a new poll has found.

In addition, a majority of Canadians doubt the new system to legally
distribute marijuana to adults across Canada will be fully operational
by July 1, 2018, which is the Liberal government's deadline to end the
94-year-old prohibition on the drug.

The results of The Globe and Mail/Nanos survey highlight the
challenges facing the Liberal government in convincing the public on
the soundness of its policy, which is a centrepiece of its mandate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has frequently said the first goal of
legalization was to "protect our kids," while Liberal parliamentary
secretary Bill Blair argued cannabis will be "far more difficult" to
obtain by minors under the heavily regulated regime.

However, only 7 per cent of respondents said they believed that
legalizing marijuana will lead to a decrease in consumption among
Canadians younger than 18. On the other hand, 48 per cent of
respondents said they felt that legalization would actually lead to an
increase in youth consumption. (The remaining 45 per cent said it
would have no impact or had no opinion.)

The Conservative Party of Canada is leading the opposition to
legalization, using it as a central argument against the Liberals in a
looming by-election in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean. According to the
Conservatives, there are large segments of the population who are
worried about the consequences of legal marijuana in their

"Despite the advice from doctors and experts, and despite the fact
that provincial governments are telling Justin Trudeau to slow down,
the Liberals are plowing ahead with their plans to adopt this flawed
legislation," Conservative MP Alain Rayes said.

According to the poll, 57 per cent of Canadians are not confident that
Ottawa and the provinces will have a legal framework for the sale of
recreational marijuana in place by July 1. By contrast, 37 per cent of
Canadians are confident that everything will be operational by then.

While Ontario has unveiled a plan to distribute marijuana through 150
government-run stores by 2020, the Quebec government is still running
public consultations to determine the best way to handle the shift in
public policy.

In an interview, Mr. Blair pointed to $274-million in new funding over
five years to fight drug-impaired driving and black market marijuana
operations as proof that governments are getting ready for
legalization. He added that putting an end to prohibition is "a
process, not an event," which will leave more work to do after July

"There is a certain urgency. The current system is unacceptable and
failing, so we have to continue moving forward. We also recognize the
complex amount of work required by all of the stakeholders in all of
this," he said.

Mr. Blair insisted the federal government can meet its goal of
preventing marijuana use by young Canadians by regulating supply,
including imposing new penalties on those who sell to children. He
added governments will also bring down demand through prevention and
public education.

"This drug is dangerous for our kids. It is not our intention in any
way to promote it, but rather to restrict access," Mr. Blair said.

Still, the Canadian Medical Association has raised a number of
questions about Ottawa's plans, calling for a minimum age of
consumption of 21 - instead of 18 in the federal legislation - to
reflect the dangers of marijuana on developing brains.

CMA president Laurent Marcoux agreed that if done right, legalization
should lead to decreased consumption among young Canadians. However,
he said the government has failed to act quickly to put out a
prevention campaign aimed at young Canadians.

"The government's goal is feasible, but it won't happen by itself. We
should have already started putting together a strategy," Dr. Marcoux
said in an interview.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians is deemed accurate within 3.1 percentage
points, 19 times out of 20. It was conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept.

Starting Monday, the health committee of the House will hold hearings
on Bill C-45 to legalize marijuana, with nearly 100 witnesses invited
to appear in front of MPs.
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MAP posted-by: Matt