Pubdate: Wed, 03 Jan 2018
Source: Record, The (Kitchener, CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Page: A6


The only way Canada can successfully legalize the sale of recreational
marijuana in 2018 is by stamping out the illegal market for the drug
at the same time.

It's not enough for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to argue that ending
the era of prohibition for cannabis on July 1 will make it easier for
authorities to control the sale of a substance that's less harmful
than alcohol and that adults should have the right to use. Fine
theories are one thing. Trudeau's federal Liberals and their
provincial government partners will be judged by what they deliver in
as little as six months, not by their talking points today.

One of their priorities is - and must be - keeping recreational
marijuana out of the hands of youth.

Scientific researchers agree the use of cannabis can harm the
development of young brains, and this explains why provinces are
setting 18 or 19 as the legal age for taking the drug.

But legalization is also supposed to help authorities safeguard the
supply, while simultaneously freeing up police and our courts for more
important matters.

None of these goals will be met if the black market for pot continues
to thrive.

To understand the magnitude of the challenge facing this country,
consider that Statistics Canada reported Canadians spent $6.2 billion
on black-market cannabis in 2015. That's almost as much as they spent
on wine.

Another Statistics Canada study estimated the underground cannabis
industry moved 697,500 kilograms of the drug in 2015 while, according
to Health Canada, the federally-regulated medical mail order system
legally delivered a mere 33,482 kilograms of dried flower and cannabis
oil that year.

Somehow, before July, Ottawa and the provinces must create a new,
legal market for recreational marijuana that has the right prices and
functions efficiently enough to persuade cannabis consumers to deal
with it - not the illegal dealers.

Ensuring this happens will mean there is enough legal supply to
satisfy demand.

While there are reasons to worry this supply will not be available
soon enough, federal officials should work overtime to see it is.

In addition, provincial governments must be ready to offer convenient
access to the legal supply. But this, too, might not happen in time.

The Ontario government, for example, plans to open just 40 standalone
stores to sell cannabis by the end of 2018.

In comparison, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario currently sells
alcoholic products in 660 standalone stores and 220 agency stores that
are part of retail outlets in smaller communities.

True, Ontario will also introduce an online-distribution option for
cannabis sales.

But unless consumers can buy marijuana without too much fuss, they'll
likely turn to a local, black market dealer.

That's precisely what Prime Minister Trudeau has vowed to end, even as
he has resisted calls to postpone the legalization of cannabis until
issues such as supply and access are dealt with.

But if the black market remains, that's where at least some youth will
go to buy a drug they simply shouldn't use.
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MAP posted-by: Matt