Pubdate: Tue, 31 Oct 2017
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Peter Thurley
Page: A7


While attending the public meeting on cannabis with the four local
members of Parliament earlier this month, I was struck by the
scaremongering rhetoric on display from the front.

Cambridge MP Bryan May, KitchenerCentre MP Raj Saini, Kitchener
SouthHespeler MP Marwan Tabbara, and K-W MP Bardish Chagger, who
sponsored the forum, led a 30-minute presentation on the proposed
cannabis laws, including the legislation that will impose blood
content driving limits onto cannabis users once the product becomes
legal in July next year. Taking comments from the audience afterward,
it was clear that there were more questions for them than they had

While municipal concerns should not be underestimated, more important
than those questions, in my view, were the concerns of the many
cannabis patients in the room that this legislation will negatively
affect them.

There were frequent reassurances from the panellists suggesting that
the current medical licensing program will remain untouched. And while
that is true, the concerns of the audience, or at least the ones who
came to the mike, had most to do with the worry that their right to
medicate might be at risk.

When the audience asked our MPs if they could tell us what five
nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood meant in terms of actual
cannabis consumption, the room was met with blank stares. That limit
isn't unimportant - that's the proposed limit over which someone would
be sent to jail for driving impaired, somewhere around 2-3 vaporizer
sessions. When pressed further on why there was no research money
being spent by government to look into these questions while $274
million has already been allocated for law enforcement, the suggestion
from the podium was that people just aren't ready to accept cannabis
as a medicine. This response was frustrating for many in the crowd,
and it should go without saying that fear of stigma on behalf of the
government is not a good enough reason to allocate exactly zero
dollars to scientific research on cannabis.

As a medical cannabis user, I'm worried about the proposed limits.
Indeed, the room was shocked to hear that the proposed limits have
nothing to do with ensuring that drivers are unimpaired. Staying
within the proposed legal limit of 2-5ng/mL of blood will require
three to five days of no driving after smoking a single joint, or
worse, five to seven days after eating one brownie or edible. Even for
recreational users, these limits make it unreasonable for anyone to
consume cannabis in the comfort of their own home on a Friday night,
for fear of testing over the legal limit when they drive to the office
on Monday morning.

The proposed levels found in Bill C-46 are not based in science; even
Canada's own forensic scientists have found no correlation between the
lower limit and impairment. Not even the pharmacist on stage,
Kitchener Centre's Raj Saini, could say one way or the other how
Canadian law enforcement was going to try and tackle the fact that
cannabis in the bloodstream does not equate to impairment the way
alcohol does; indeed that fact seemed conspicuously absent from the
presentation material.

It must be said that there is never an excuse to drive impaired, and
no cannabis user should be allowed to drive impaired. As legalization
approaches and the government looks to up their public safety
education campaign, it will be important that this message remain
central. However, this message should not be interpreted as blanket
permission to target medical users who use the product daily to treat
a variety of maladies. Taking a tough stand on impaired driving must
actually focus on impairment, not per serving limits with no
scientific basis.

I look forward to hearing from our MPs at a future cannabis round
table, perhaps when they are more prepared.

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Peter Thurley is principal and chief writing officer at Peter Thurley 
Communications and Consulting Services. He serves as a member of the 
Patient Advisory Board at Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Matt