Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2018
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2018 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Joan Bryden
Page: A5


Liberals insist recreational marijuana will be legal in July

OTTAWA - The Trudeau government insists it's on track to legalize
recreational pot in July - but whether that means it will actually be
on sale by then is uncertain.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told senators Tuesday that
provinces and territories have indicated once Bill C-45, the
legislation setting up a legal cannabis regime, is given royal assent,
they'll need another eight to 12 weeks to prepare for retail sales.

"Once we've reached royal assent, there's going to be a transition
period because we have to ensure that provinces and territories have
the capacity to get the product into their shops," she said later
outside the Senate.

At the same time, Petitpas Taylor said: "We still feel very confident
that we can meet our goal of July 2018. No one ever said July 1 or I
never said July 1. But our goal of meeting July 2018 for me is still
very much a realistic goal."

However, she did not clarify when asked whether she means the goal is
to have royal assent by then or to have cannabis actually on sale by

If the latter, that would mean the Senate would have to pass the bill
by no later than the end of May - which seems unlikely given the depth
and breadth of concern among senators about C-45 that was apparent
during a rare two-hour grilling of Petitpas Taylor

Oand two other cabinet ministers in the Senate chamber Tuesday. One
senator, independent Liberal Jim Munson, attempted to get some
clarity, asking if the ministers were saying the actual sale of
marijuana will not occur until eight to 12 weeks after July 1.

Goodale's response only further muddied the water: "Our goal is this
summer in an orderly fashion with all the pieces sequenced in the
right order so that they are effective."

Conservative senators, in particular, are not keen on legalization but
their Senate leader, Larry Smith, said Tuesday they won't be

"I promise you, however, that we will give a voice to those in the
Canadian public who have significant and valid concerns about the
policy choice your government is making," he said.

Smith argued that the government is proceeding too quickly and should
not legalize marijuana before conducting an intensive public education
campaign about the dangers of cannabis use on the developing brains of

Denise Batters, another Conservative senator, questioned the
government's argument that regulating cannabis will make it harder for
young people to get access to it, pointing out that C-45 allows
individuals to grow up to four plants in their homes.

Other senators raised concerns that legalization will encourage young
people to smoke and increase the incidence of impaired driving.

But it wasn't just Conservative senators who raised

Sen. Serge Joyal, an independent Liberal, questioned the government's
contention that legalization will push organized crime out of the
marijuana marketing business. He pointed to a report that found almost
half of 86 companies that have received Health Canada permits to grow
marijuana are financed through offshore tax havens frequently used by
organized crime to launder money. Screening of such companies is
insufficient to ensure "we're not doing through the back door what we
are trying to eliminate from the front door," Joyal said.

Petitpas and Goodale - along with Justice Minister Jody
Wilson-Raybould and Toronto Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government's
point man on marijuana - repeatedly countered that most of the
potential problems identified by senators already exist in Canada,
where prohibition has led to cannabis use by young people that is the
highest among developed countries and a market controlled entirely by

"Obviously, the current law has failed," Goodale said.

"I'm frankly not prepared to leave the health and safety of our
children in the hands of criminals," added Blair, a former Toronto
police chief.

- - The Canadian Press
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