Pubdate: Sat, 23 Sep 2017
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2017 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Author: Teresa Wright
Page: A3


Islander hosting public discussion on legal pot after government says
no to public meetings

A local woman is taking matters into her own hands to speak openly
about legalizing marijuana after her request to government for a
public meeting was denied.

Annie MacEachern says she asked provincial officials about its plans
for a public meeting after government released a public engagement
survey asking

Islanders for their opinions on how the province should deal with
impaired driving, education, taxation, public health and regulatory
compliance in regards to legal cannabis.

When she was told there were no public meetings planned, she decided
to host her own meetings.

"When they told me that they would not be offering any kind of
informational sessions or public discussions, I felt responsible to
take that on," she says.

MacEachern, who has a degree in public relations, says she has been
researching the cannabis industry for the last five years.

"Public safety and health are my main concerns in the legalization of
recreational cannabis, and I firmly believe that conversations about
how this rolls out need to be happening in the public with our

She held her first public discussion at the new National Access
Cannabis location in P.E.I. and was attended by about 50 people. She
hopes an even larger group attends her second event on Sunday.

"A lot of people of have messaged me on social media and come up to me
in public to tell me they were excited to hear that this discussion
was happening in public. People want to talk about this. All I want to
do is allow a safe, open space to discuss cannabis," MacEachern said.

In a statement to The Guardian, the province says it is limiting its
requests for public input to written or survey submissions at this
time because of the limited time it has before the federal government
makes marijuana legal in July 2018.

"We have a very short timeline for decision making, writing
legislation and creating policy for cannabis use," the government
statement said.

"The public survey allows us to focus the discussion on areas which
the province actually has control over (i.e. legal age, distribution
method), and the format is accessible for all Islanders."

Government further argues this approach is reaching more Islanders
than public meetings would.

"Where a town hall typically only brings in a small portion of the
population, we have already reached more than 2,700 Islanders through
the online survey to-date, plus those who submitted paper copies to
Access P.E.I. and those who have made a written submission."

The province did say it plans to also reach out to stakeholders for
consultation and pledged to "have further public engagement when it
comes to education and information on issues such as public health,
safety, law enforcement, etc."

MacEachern's public discussion will take place Sunday at Dynamic
Fitness, 99 Pownal St., from 2 to 4 p.m. The event is open to the public.
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