Pubdate: Mon, 18 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tyler Dawson
Page: A1


While police in Ontario and Canada are worried they will not be
prepared in time for marijuana legalization, Attorney General Yasir
Naqvi says the provincial government is forging ahead, aiming to be
ready for the federal Liberals' July 1 legalization date, and he
expects police will manage to enforce the law once it passes.

"The federal government is fairly committed to the July 1 timeline.
They feel that they've provided sufficient time to everyone to get
prepared," Naqvi said by phone from Vancouver on Friday.

"Ontario is leading the pack at the moment." That said, Naqvi conceded
he would "keep the options open" if, at a later date, the Ontario
government needed to go to the federal government and say, whoa, y'all
need to slow this down. But, he reiterated repeatedly, following a
media conference after a meeting of provincial and territorial justice
ministers and federal counterpart Jody Wilson-Raybould, how committed
the Ontario Liberals were to hitting the deadline.

It's true that Ontario has got a decent amount done on the file, being
the first province, on Sept. 8, to present how it plans to sell pot
from LCBO-style establishments. Still, it hasn't released its tax
scheme, and the plans to shut down the dozens of illegal dispensaries
around Ontario haven't been particularly well explained or justified.

What Naqvi said about Ontario simply having to get ready in time -
which basically suggests that's the case whether everyone likes it or
not - revealed the crux of the issue of pot legalization: Justin
Trudeau's government did not provide a whole lot of guidance,
downloading many of the decisions, such as point of sale and age of
purchase, onto provincial governments. Some questions, it seems, just
haven't been considered: homegrown pot plants can only be 100
centimetres tall, but there's no width set, as the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police has noted. Yet it's going to be up to
police officers and pot retailers to handle whatever comes from
politicians and quite simply make the best of it.

The problem with this approach (not that it's unique in Canada, where
provinces shoulder a whole lot of the burden of running a country) is
that governments, at some point, are going to run out of people upon
which to off-load responsibility. The lack of guidance leaves those
who are going to be handling this brave new world day-to-day in an
awkward position. If something goes wrong, it's going to be someone's
fault. The only question is who. Last week, the House of Commons
health committee heard from witnesses on the marijuana bill, among
them, police, who were extremely blunt in their assessment of the
circumstances. "Canadian police services will not be equipped to
provide officers with the training and resources necessary to enforce
the new regime within the existing contemplated time frame," said a
brief from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

At the heart of this is a fairly serious conundrum: If criminalizing
pot use is wrong, then day by day it becomes less and less morally
defensible to enforce those laws and use them to press Canadians
through the legal system.

That means it makes wonderful ethical sense (not to mention political,
as this isn't a promise the Liberals want to fail on) to legalize
marijuana with all haste. It just might not make practical sense,
especially when it's police who are worried.

"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done
quickly," says Macbeth, a useful axiom, except that, in the case of
pot, it won't be done when it's done. Legalization will be merely the
beginning of whatever comes next, legally and socially.

Yes, the pot bill does legalize marijuana, but it also maintains a
criminal regime. Strict rules are set on how much pot one can have on
them (30 grams), how many plants can be grown in a home (four) and
drug-impaired driving. Police are going to be responsible for dealing
with this, and, if they're not confident they can enforce it, that
means there's trouble ahead.

Naqvi, for his part, seems to have faith in Ontario's officers of the

"I've always been struck by how hard they work and they always respect
the law, and, if there is a law that is ready, and it comes into force
on July 1, then I have full confidence that OPP and other police
services across the province would comply with it," he said.

Police, no doubt, will enforce the law as it exists. The issue is what
happens after that. Already, the spectre of shabby science on
detecting pot impairment on our roads has been raised. Politicians
have gone out of their way to insist how seriously the issue of
drug-impaired driving is being taken, and who can fault them? But the
police, who are going to be enforcing this, if they don't have the
requisite training and the necessary equipment, these details will be
fought out in courts, institutions that are already groaning under the
load of criminal cases on the docket.

This doesn't mean that slowing legalization is necessarily the answer.
It might be, it might not. But it does mean, that at some point, for
the federal government, postponing might be the best bet to ensure
people are safe, police are prepared and the whole system doesn't end
up hurting folks when it's supposed to be improving Canadian society.

Faith in the necessity - or virtues of legalized pot simply isn't
enough to make the new regime a success.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt