Pubdate: Wed, 13 Sep 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper
Page: A6


It's difficult to analyze the impact of Ottawa's coming marijuana
legislation with studies and numbers and examinations of other

This is the type of social legislation that sparks emotions that can't
be allayed with pie charts.

There are many thousands, if not millions, of Canadian parents worried
this will make it easier for their children to find pot.

On the other hand, an untold number of parents are likely to spark one
up tonight to relax after the kids head to bed.

At a parliamentary committee hearing Tuesday - one of a weeklong
series of hearings on the marijuana legislation - it was left to
American visitors to cut through the Canadian paranoia that dominated
most of the day.

Officials from Colorado and Washington brought the temperature down on
the question of use by youth, mayhem in the streets and timelines.

A Colorado official likened their experience to "flying the plane
while we were still building it.'' But they got there.

It was left to Canadian police, aided and abetted by Conservative MPs,
to raise the alarm bells.

Police say it will be impossible for them to be ready by the July 2018
legislation date. The period between passage of the legislation and
the time police are ready is when organized crime will really gain an
unshakable toehold on the pot industry, warned Rick Barnum, the OPP
deputy commissioner for organized crime.

The OPP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CAPC) said
they need hundreds more officers trained in cannabis-impaired driving
recognition. But when, exactly, do police not ask for more time and

They also painted a horrific picture of the result of the legislation
that allows a limit of four plants for home grows. This isn't four
little plants sitting on a window sill, said Mike Serr of the CAPC.
Maybe not, but he outlined an eye-popping picture of how one indoor
plant would yield 60 to 100 grams per plant in a building of 200 units
in which half were growing marijuana, causing safety hazards, home
invasions, pot for kids and safety violations.

To be sure, there are some realities at play here. The most damaging
thing that can come from marijuana use, whether you are a youth or an
adult, is being ensnared in the criminal justice system.

Under this legislation, adults with more than 30 grams, youths with
more than five grams, or someone who tries to sneak a fifth plant into
their home are all criminals.

It is unfair to criminalize an 18-year-old with six grams of marijuana
in his possession when his 19-year-old brother can legally buy 30 grams.

It is blatant hypocrisy to continue to lay possession charges as
legalization looms.

As many as 17,000 possession charges were laid in 2016,
disproportionately laid against the marginalized and racialized, as
recently reported in the Star.

And it is also blatantly unfair to anyone whose life has been upended
with criminal convictions for possession once pot is legalized. They
must be pardoned.

Those concerned about an increase in youth smoking rates should
remember that those in the 12-18 age group know where to find pot now
and they will know how to find it on the black market after July 1,

The black market is not going away after that date, particularly in
Ontario where Kathleen Wynne is starting with 40 drab, government-run
outlets for the entire province, even if there is an online option. If
you're buying pot from a trusted outlet now, it is highly unlikely
you're going to make a lengthy sojourn to hit one of those stores on a
Saturday night to restock.

The choices youth make regarding marijuana come from their teachings
at home and school. Kids will perceive that there is less harm from
this drug if it is legal.

In Colorado and Washington, a few years into legalization, there has
been no explosion in youth usage.

In Washington, for example, use is now down among eighth and 10th

It is rare for a visiting official to come to Ottawa and criticize
Canadian legislation, but Michael Hartman of the Colorado Department
of Revenue pointed out that his state of five million people is
spending $12 million on outreach to youth about the dangers of
marijuana. Ottawa is spending $9 million for a country more than six
times the size of the state.

That may be the lesson here for kids and marijuana. Don't threaten
them with criminal sanctions. Spend some real money to teach them.
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