Pubdate: Wed, 20 Dec 2017
Source: Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Tri-City News
Author: Gary McKenna


As a former Toronto police chief, Liberal MP Bill Blair said he
understands how the federal government's legislation legalizing
marijuana consumption for recreational use affects

Blair, Ottawa's point person on the pot file, was in the Tri-Cities
this week, meeting with mayors and councillors, he said, to ensure
cities have the tools and information ahead of the regulation changes
coming next summer.

"I recognize the important roles that mayors, councillors and local
police officers have to make this thing work," he said in an interview
Monday with The Tri-City News at Port Coquitlam city hall. "They have
a big job to do here and we want to make sure they have the support
they need that is required at the local level in order to make sure
that this works in this community."

One of the issues local governments are grappling with revolves around
impaired driving. Currently, police officers do not have standardized
field sobriety testing or the equipment to detect whether a person is
under the influence of drugs when operating a motor vehicle.

Blair said that is about to change with the imminent approval of new
screening devices in spring 2018.

While the technology is new to Canada, he said it has been
successfully used in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

The new regulations, he added, will make roads safer.

"Impaired by drug is not a situation created by the legislation," he
said, "it is a problem today. A third of young adults in this country
are using cannabis and many do not know the risks that presents on
their ability to drive… You're taking your lives into your hands."

But the new technology and training will not be cheap, and the federal
government has already heard complaints from municipal leaders about
the downloaded costs.

Blair said the money will be available.

He points to a taxation regime that initially saw the federal
government split a $1 excise tax 50/50 with provinces. But after
hearing from local governments through the Federation of Canadian
Municipalities, Blair said Ottawa offered up half of its share - 25%
of every dollar - to be given to municipalities through the provincial

He noted that more than $740 million has already been allocated for
administrative infrastructure at Health Canada and for training police
officers in drug recognition and field testing.

In speaking with municipal leaders, Blair said most agree that the
existing prohibition of marijuana use is not working and changes are

"We well know the current system has many limitations and it is
failing our kids and creating an illegal black market," he said. "The
current system is not getting the job done… and so I think most people
are quite accepting of the idea that a well-regulated system of
production and distribution is a better and smarter way to go."
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