Pubdate: Sat, 16 Sep 2017
Source: News, The (New Glasgow, CN NS)
Copyright: 2017 Transcontinental Inc.
Author: Sam Macdonald
Page: A1


Government, business community and advocacy groups have varied

As the deadline for the federal government's move to legalize
marijuana in July 2018 approaches, users, stakeholders, business
people and politicians involved in the matter offer a variety of concerns.

Hank Merchant, CEO of HBB Medical, a medical marijuana dispensary,
welcomes the introduction of guidelines and regulations on the sale of
marijuana, "because there are people who have no qualms about
operating outside the law."

"We, as medical marijuana dispensaries, don't do that," Merchant

Merchant hopes all levels of government will take measures that are
responsible and prudent when going about legalizing pot.

As a seller of medicinal marijuana, Merchant said there are several
criteria his business must meet, to be able legally to sell marijuana
in Canada.

Dispensaries are not permitted near schools or public gathering
locations, and have to be at least 300 metres away from them.
Dispensaries are forbidden to be within 300 metres of other
dispensaries. Merchant noted that dispensaries are required by law to
be wheelchair accessible; need to be a certain square footage and
subject to regular surveillance.

HBB Medical follows the same guidelines for dispensaries in Colorado,
Washington and Vancouver, Merchant said. He hopes that will be the
standard to which provinces aspire.

"You have doctors who recognize the importance of medicinal marijuana
as a medication. Those doctors have to identify patients and clients
by screening them," said Merchant. "The first step is to get a
prescription by a medical doctor."

One major distinction between HBB Medical and the kinds of
recreational marijuanabusinesses expected to arrive next summer, is
that "there needs to be a need," Merchant said.

Before a person can be sold marijuana at dispensaries, a specific
medical necessity must be present - which won't be the case with
recreational marijuana when it's legalized.

"You can't just walk into the store and buy a product unless you have
a prescription," said Merchant, whose business provides medicinal
marijuana to 12,000 clients.

Merchant noted that although the laws governing the sale of marijuana
will change, he doesn't anticipate it having too much of an effect on
his business, since he is licensed to sell medicinal marijuana -
something still governed on the federal level, and for which laws are
already in place.

"Right now, we're certainly in the grey area. It's not black and white
- - it's grey," said Merchant. "We're thankful to be allowed to continue
to serve clients." While federal laws govern the sale of medicinal
marijuana, laws relating to the sale of recreational marijuanawill be
determined provincially - and in that case, there is still some
uncertainty in Nova Scotia.

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou and opposition justice critic, sees a
legislative storm looming on the horizon for Nova Scotia. MacFarlane
said there are still too many unknowns, in terms of the changes the
government has to implement.

"We're dealing with a colossal social, justice and economic issue for
society," said MacFarlane, who added that the provincial government
has been "dragging its feet" on rolling out a plan.

MacFarlane commended Ontario, the first - and only - province to roll
out a strategy for legalized marijuana, while in the case of Nova
Scotia, "we were told there would be consultations held towards the
end of the summer, or in early fall."

MacFarlane wants to see an outline of Nova Scotia's plan, so that
stakeholders and the public are part of a conversation. She said she
finds the absence of a rigorous and thorough plan troubling, at this

"Dr. Robert Strang, our chief medical officer of health, said
verbatim, that he is concerned about the July 2018 deadline," said
MacFarlane, emphasizing that there needs to be more in place.

Following a request from The News, the Department of Justice issued the 
following statement Friday: "As we continue to work toward the 
legalization of cannabis, the health and safety of Nova Scotians, 
especially children and youth, is our top priority. Cannabis 
legalization is complex and will have significant impacts on provinces, 
territories and municipalities. There is a lot of work to do and many 
decisions to make in the coming months around the distribution model, 
health and safety, taxation and the legislative steps we need to take to 
be ready for July 2018. We will be looking at various options and will 
be consulting with Nova Scotians this fall."

MacFarlane contended that that far too many questions remain
unanswered. These include questions pertaining to youth possession and
repercussions; where people will be allowed to smoke it; charges for
violating those laws; the minimum age - and where the profits from
regulated sales of cannabis will go.

"The government has done nothing to indicate they have info going
forward on this," said MacFarlane. "They haven't even set up dates for
consultations. All they have is a link to the federal information on
(their website)."

The best way for the province to move forward with a plan is
cautiously, MacFarlane stated, adding, "Let's get it right. We don't
want to rush through it. We just finished the election, and we have
lots of time."

She also alluded to a number of police groups opposing the
legalization of marijuana by July 2018, saying, "police commissioners
are federally out doing interviews, saying there's no way police can
be ready for July 2018."

MacFarlane's comments refer to representatives of police services
across Canada including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police,
Ontario Provincial Police and Saskatoon Police Service - having said
they will not be prepared to enforce any new laws relating to
legalized marijuana, if those laws are implemented by July 2018.

The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) has raised concerns of
its own. In a media release, the CPA recommended several steps to
mitigate harm.

The CPA cautions that cannabis, being the most commonly used illicit
drug among people aged 15-24, is potentially harmful among adolescent
users, being associated with impaired verbal learning, memory and
attention. The CPA also stated it has been associated with disorders
such as psychosis, depression and bipolar disorder.

David Teplin, chair of the CPA task force on cannabis, recommended the
federal government invest in more research on marijuana, adding there
are gaps in what is known.

Another investment recommended by the CPA is in harm reduction
approaches to treating problematic use of marijuana.

Dr. Karen Cohen, CEO of the CPA, said evidence-based psychological
treatments for mental and substance used disorders in Canada have
always been a concern for the CPA, because of a lack of resources
available for them.

"The legalization of cannabis will bring about increased tax revenue
for governments that could be allocated to prevention and treatment of
those common disorders," said Cohen.
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