Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2017
Source: Guardian, The (CN PI)
Copyright: 2017 The Guardian, Charlottetown Guardian Group Incorporated
Page: A8


For a government that likes to tout its commitment to openness and
public engagement, the MacLauchlan Liberals' decision to forego public
meetings on legalizing cannabis is disappointing.

After all, it was the province that issued a call for opinions from
Islanders on how P.E.I. should adapt to federal legislation that will
make marijuana legal by July 2018.

"Have your say on cannabis legislation," the P.E.I. government website
proclaims. "Share your thoughts on what cannabis legislation should
look like for Prince Edward Island."

But it seems government only wants your thoughts if they can be
limited to the questions in a government-crafted survey or contained
quietly within a written submission.

No public meetings will be held as part of this consultation. Only
"stakeholders" will be granted meetings with government.

Government's excuse for not holding public meetings is

Firstly, it says the survey allows government to "focus the discussion
on areas which the province actually has control over (i.e. legal age,
distribution method)," arguing the timeline for implementation is tight.

Translation: the province doesn't want to offer a microphone to those 
who might digress into areas that fall outside provincial jurisdiction.

It is true that public meetings can get derailed. But if it's topical
and something the public wants to bring up in a public meeting,
shouldn't our elected officials be willing to listen?

Secondly, government argues the survey is reaching more Islanders than
public meetings ever could. A town hall might only draw a few hundred
people whereas the survey has already reached 2,700 Islanders,
government says.

While it is encouraging to see the survey getting a good level of
response, it is also important to remember that some people might have
ideas to offer that fall outside the parameters of a survey. Islanders
could have fresh perspectives to share, or may simply want an open
forum to talk about how they would like to see legal marijuana rolled
out in P.E.I.

It's certainly an issue that is divisive, with physicians and policy
makers in jurisdictions across Canada disagreeing on the recommended
legal age for recreational use and concerns about gaps in the ability
to measure impairment levels.

There are also varying degrees of education and understanding among
many when it comes to cannabis, even for medicinal use.

Government may not like the idea of going to public meetings on an
issue that could elicit strong opinions.

But the best way to ensure good public policy is to encourage open
dialogue and debate. It's part of the foundation of our democracy.

A local woman who has taken to holding her own public meetings on the
issue has raised some important questions that deserve broader
discussion, including what role producers and retailers will play in
this lucrative new market.

Limiting discussion on issues such an important policy change is not
in the best interests of Islanders. Let's really let Islanders have
their say about what legalized marijuana should look like in Prince
Edward Island - in public.
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MAP posted-by: Matt