Pubdate: Sat, 09 Dec 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Page: A16


B.C.'s NDP government is right to get ahead of the curve and establish
a framework for distributing and regulating recreational cannabis in
advance of the federal government legalizing it next July.

But the plan still has some shortcomings that should be addressed
before we legally light up our sativa and enjoy what one vendor
described as its spicy, earthy flavours.

B.C. intends to make marijuana available at public and private retail
outlets, supplied exclusively by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.
The government has determined that people age 19 and over will be
allowed to buy it.

It makes sense to deliver cannabis products through the LDB given its
experience in dealing with alcohol, but the fate of dispensaries that
have popped up like Starbucks on every corner, many of which have
business licences issued by the city, is not clear.

Considerable controversy remains over the age restriction. It's worth
noting that in Washington and Colorado, where non-medicinal marijuana
has been legal for several years, the age to purchase pot is 21. That
is also the age recommended by the Canadian Medical Association, which
is concerned about the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain. In
fact, the CMA prefers age 25, but realizes this is unrealistic. After
all, a Statistics Canada report in 2016 found one in five teens age 15
to 19 used cannabis in the past year. The concern is that research has
shown cannabis consumption may lead to long-term mental deficits in
learning and memory, with greater frequency of use correlating to a
decline in intelligence. However, research has focused on heavy users;
the consequences of casual use are still largely unknown.

On the other hand, restricting sales of cannabis to those 21 years and
older risks enabling the black market, undermining the purpose of this
entire exercise. Equally important in combating the underground
marijuana market is pricing, about which little has been disclosed.

If the plan is to tax marijuana like tobacco, the government must be
cognizant of the fact that more than 20 per cent of cigarettes smoked
in Canada are contraband.

Then there is the matter of driving under the influence. Standard
sobriety tests have not been proven effective in detecting marijuana
impairment, defined by a bill working its way through Parliament as
two nanograms of THC per millimetre of blood. Critics argue police
officers are inadequately trained to deal with stoned drivers.

Any plan to manage cannabis sales will be complex and fraught with
pitfalls. The government should move cautiously to ensure public
safety and avoid turning legalization into a free-for-all.
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