Pubdate: Fri, 04 May 2018
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Toronto Star
Author: Tim Harper


The Senate seems determined to slow the Liberal government's timeline
for marijuana legalization and Justin Trudeau seems just as determined
to deliver his legalization on time - give or take a few weeks.

The prime minister will get his way, but that doesn't mean the Senate,
and Indigenous leaders, are not flagging some important issues.

Opposition Conservatives would like nothing more than to push the
rollout of legal recreational pot into an election year, the better to
take political advantage of the inevitable stumbles that will come
with such a momentous move.

So, their senators can find a danger under every leaf of every plant,
and some of their proposed amendments or complaints can fall into the
category of frivolous or vexatious.

Senate committees studying the cannabis legislation, Bill C-45, have
proposed amendments to prohibit home cultivation, leaving the
authority to regulate the matter of home grown pot to the
provinces.Article Continued Below

They want the THC levels to be posted on all cannabis products and
Conservative senators have unsuccessfully pushed to have the minimum
age for legal purchase raised from 18 to 21 and to limit the THC
level, keeping it much lower for younger consumers. It also tried and
failed to have the legislation (except for provisions which prohibit
promotion of cannabis products) take effect one year after a companion
bill on cannabis impaired driving came into force.

But there are more substantive recommendations.

The Senate aboriginal peoples committee has called for implementation
to be delayed for up to a year for a reason that should make Liberals
wince, that the government hasn't consulted properly with Indigenous
communities where youth may be more vulnerable to drug abuse or with
Indigenous leadership on revenue sharing. In essence, that committee
said legalized cannabis promises more pain with no financial gain for
Indigenous communities.

The Assembly of First Nations, already showing its impatience with the
speed with which Trudeau's reconciliation promises are manifesting
themselves in concrete policies, raised the same matter this week. It
passed a resolution calling on First Nations to share in the marijuana
excise tax that is now shared solely between the provinces and the
federal government, and it vowed to lobby the government for this change.

There is no reason such consultation should delay the legislation, but
Trudeau risks Indigenous pushback if their communities cannot share in

Senators have also raised an issue that deserves further attention,
the potential peril for Canadian travellers at the U.S. border.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says no laws will be changed - it
will still be illegal for pot to be taken over the border in either
direction - but Canadians should remain vigilant because they can be
barred from the U.S. for admitting to marijuana use, even if it is
legal. It would not be paranoid to believe more marijuana questions at
the U.S. border might follow marijuana legalization on this side.

The Senate committee on national security requested the government
table a plan to protect Canadian travellers at the border and the
chair of the committee, former OPP commissioner and Trudeau appointee
Gwen Boniface, said the government must continue to make diplomatic
overtures to Washington.

Goodale says he is doing just that and has had conversations with past
and present Donald Trump homeland security chiefs to ensure the U.S.
understands the reasoning behind the legislative change.

His office downplays concerns, saying marijuana use already affects
border operations because one in eight Canadians use cannabis, yet
400,000 people move between the two countries each day, virtually 

Trudeau Thursday promised full speed ahead on his timetable, but he
should be pushed on another matter that the Senate has ignored.

His government is illogically using resources and clogging court
systems by charging people with pot possession.

Goodale's office said Thursday the government will study solutions to
make things more fair for those who had been charged with possession
of small amounts of marijuana.

In the meantime, as chronicled in this newspaper, those being charged
are disproportionately young, Black and Indigenous. The current pardon
system is a mess and the cost of $631 in processing costs alone has
driven down the number of applications. The government knows that
because it consulted Canadians on it and heard the complaints.

In the meantime it makes little sense to keep preaching the law is the
law when you are hellbent on changing it.
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