Pubdate: Thu, 14 Sep 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Colby Cosh
Page: A11


I cannot be the only one who feels the world is a little upside-down
after Wednesday's hearings on marijuana held by the House of Commons
standing committee on health. The day's proceedings were essentially
broken into two parts. First, high-ranking Canadian police came before
the committee to complain that they didn't have the technical
resources or the training to deal with legalized marijuana. They
pleaded for the passage of the Liberals' Cannabis Act to be delayed.

Then officials and scholars from the states of Colorado and Washington
appeared to talk about their initial experiences with legalized
marijuana. The contrast was remarkable. Canadian cops are behaving as
if marijuana is a new problem for them- as if Justin Trudeau had just
invented marijuana, and the stuff's mystical properties are unfamiliar
to every police officer in the land. The general thrust of the
American testimony was not in conflict with the police demand to delay
the legislation. Indeed, their major messages included going slow,
getting it right, and learning from the history of the pot states. But
none of the American witnesses, particularly the Washington and
Colorado revenue bean-counters, showed any particular appetite for
going back to the days of prohibition.

They could have come to Canada and said, "Oh, God, what are you crazy
SOBs thinking?" There was little evidence of any such sentiment. I
think it is safe to say that committee members who favour
legalization, or who are anything other than implacably hostile to it,
must have come away from the testimony broadly reassured.

Washington and Colorado have not descended into a nightmare of chaos
because they have legalized "recreational marijuana." By most social
measures these states are about what they were before legalization.
Youth use of pot is being watched closely, and it appears to be
steady, possibly reduced. The states' coffers have seen a modest
benefit, and some of the money from pot taxation is made available for
general drug education and abuse prevention - not just the more
intensive outreach to young people about weed.

Prices for retail marijuana are so low, as large producers evolve,
that both states are considering a possible mandated price floor. That
is good for users, and particularly medical users, who might not just
be people with official prescriptions. If we want marijuana to
displace alcohol in social settings - which might be an intelligent
policy goal if we really had discovered cannabis sativa yesterday - a
low price is a good way of doing it.

One of the less-discussed benefits of pot legalization is that some
people may have the opportunity to self-medicate in a relatively
harmless way for anxiety, stress, lowlevel chronic pain, or even
ordinary neuroses and personality disorders. There is strong evidence
that legalized medical marijuana reduces Medicare expenses in the
states that have gone for it.

Something that was hard to imagine before Washington and Colorado did
the unthinkable, and which the witnesses from those states emphasized,
is the relative popularity of edible cannabis products. They make up
more of the legal pot market than anybody foresaw. This comes with
problems of its own. Experts from both states testified that baked
goods, chocolate bars, and other edibles have led to accidental
cannabis exposures in small children. Some inexperienced adults seem
to have had the Maureen Dowd experience of eating an inadvisably large
amount of tetrahydrocannabinol-filled candy and freaking out a tad.
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