Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star


Two very different things, both related to marijuana, happened in
Toronto last week. One mattered, and pointed to some of the challenges
still ahead with the legalization of marijuana later this year. The
other was the proverbial tempest in a teapot.

Allegations that workers were smoking pot on the job, forcing
Metrolinx to shut down work on a section of the $5.3-billion Crosstown
LRT project, was a serious matter.

But the uproar over the Toronto location for one of Ontario's first
government-run pot shops, which continued this week with comments from
Premier Kathleen Wynne, is way out of proportion.

It's half a kilometre from an elementary school. Parents and trustees
were not consulted, and Wynne says she isn't happy about that.

Neither is the hairdresser in the plaza at Gerrard St. E. and Victoria
Park Ave. that's set to be the future home of a store operated by the
Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation. She's worried about the children,
and her adult customers.Article Continued Below

"One of my customers phoned me," she said. "She doesn't want to come
to the shop anymore if this is going to exist."

Why on earth would that be? There will be nothing more dangerous about
a legal, government-run pot shop than an LCBO outlet, a Beer Store or
even the convenience store in that very plaza, which sells cigarettes.

None of those retailers can sell their legal but age-restricted
products to any students from the school in the area who might decide
to seek them out on their lunch break. Or anyone else, for that
matter, who isn't at least 19 years old and has proper identification
to prove it.

The local drug dealers, however, are under no such prohibitions. They
can, and no doubt do, sell to anyone with money in hand.

Trying to protect young people, who currently have easier access to a
joint than to a bottle of beer, was the first reason Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau gave for his government's decision to legalize cannabis.

The second was to transfer billions of dollars from dealers and gangs,
and the vast criminal organizations behind them, to government coffers
where it can be used to provide services and programs.

According to one rough Statistics Canada estimate, Canadians consume
as much as $6.2 billion worth of cannabis each year. That's a great
deal of money that now goes to fund criminal enterprise. And the price
Canadian society pays is much higher than that.

The prohibition of marijuana has driven up the cost of policing and
contributed to a national crisis of court delays. It has compounded
racial and class inequities and unnecessarily criminalized people for
doing something that by and large poses little threat to them or
others. And it's done all that without delivering the promised public
health and safety benefits.

Legalization, which will mean putting legal shops in communities
across the country, is the right thing to do.

That doesn't mean there won't be challenges when pot becomes legal.
There will be.

Top of the list is ensuring that police have the necessary training
and enforcement tools - roadside spit kits, for example - to catch
marijuana-impaired drivers.

Under Ontario legislation marijuana can't be smoked in vehicles,
public places or workplaces. That adds up to more challenges for
police, landlords and employers.

Just look how many drivers still use their cell phones. And it won't
be easy to stop some people from turning a smoke break into a weed
break - as may have happened with the workers on the Crosstown LRT
last week.

These are the issues that need attention, not poring over maps trying
to find shop locations that somehow manage to be nowhere near one of
the 800 schools in Toronto.
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MAP posted-by: Matt