HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Slap-Dash Approach To Pot Legalization
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2017
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Lethbridge Herald
Contact:  http://www.lethbridgeherald.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/239
Author: Rachael Harder
Page: A6

SLAP-DASH APPROACH TO POT LEGALIZATION

On Monday, Nov. 27, The Cannabis Act passed third reading. This was
the last vote in the House of Commons before the legislation goes to
the Senate for review and approval. The government's plan is to have
marijuana on the market for recreational use starting July 1, 2018.

I voted "no" to this legislation. Here's why:

The Liberal government has been told by numerous authorities,
including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to slow down.
There's no reason the legislation needs to come into effect on July 1,
2018 and law enforcement agents have warned the government of the
negative impact its rushed time frame will have on officers and the
safety of Canadians.

During the committee's study of the bill, it was reported that nearly
6,000 officers need to be trained and there is no way this will happen
within the next seven months. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of
Police said in their testimony that the "CACP urges the Government of
Canada to first consider extending the July 2018 commencement date to
allow police services to obtain sufficient resources and proper
training, both of which are critical to the successful implementation
of the proposed cannabis act."

Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum testified
that if the government moves forward with its arbitrary deadline,
police will be about six to 12 months behind, thus creating a window
of opportunity for organized crime to flourish.

But time isn't the only concern. The cost to law enforcement agencies
must also be considered. A large sum of money is required to train
agents on how to properly enforce the new Criminal Code restrictions
on recreational cannabis and to procure new equipment for testing and
enforcement. This is a huge expense and the federal government isn't
willing to help. It's not just law enforcement agents who are upset
about the short time frame. Provinces, territories, municipalities and
aboriginal leaders have all spoken out against the brief window
they've been given to prepare and the financial burden placed on them
to create and enforce new laws and bylaws.

At the end of the day, the federal government sets the rules for legal
possession and the mechanisms for licensing producers and regulating
packaging. Provinces and municipalities must determine health and
safety regulations, where and how recreational marijuana can be sold,
and where it's allowed to be used. Municipalities must also create new
zoning laws to determine whether or not a store can be set up near a
school or a halfway house; or if landlords are permitted to prohibit
tenants from growing cannabis in rental units.

All of these necessary action items require time and money.
Municipalities and provinces are reporting they don't have either.
Again, the message they've sent to the federal government is to slow
down! What's the rush?

If the federal government is willing to disregard the need for time
and money, they should at least give weight to public safety concerns.

The recreational use of marijuana will be legal in seven months, but
the roadside drug-testing methods currently available to police are
insufficient. Agents are instructed to test for oral fluids, but this
only proves the presence of the drug, not the concentration, thus
making it impossible to know the level of impairment under which the
operator is driving. What's more, there's no universally accepted
limit for what constitutes impairment. Jurisdictions in the United
States and Europe where marijuana has been legalized have different
limits.

Lastly and most importantly, the Cannabis Act does nothing to protect
children from accessing and using marijuana. In fact, it could be
argued that the legislation facilitates easy access and use among youth.

Each household will be allowed to grow four marijuana plants. That's
enough to produce more than 3,100 joints. Who's going to stop young
people from growing a plant or two or stop them from accessing a plant
in the home?

Anyone 18 years of age or older will be permitted to purchase
recreational marijuanafrom a store. Every major medical association in
Canada agrees that cannabis use has a negative impact on the brain
development of those under the age of 25. There is growing evidence
that its use is associated with mental health issues, including
schizophrenia.

Furthermore, under the legislation, youth between 12 and 17 years of
age will be able to carry up to five grams (approximately 10 joints)
of marijuana without getting into trouble. They can be questioned as
to how they acquired it, and the marijuana can be weighed, but the
drug cannot be permanently seized.

The Liberal government promised to the put a "robust" education
campaign in place to educate people about the potential harms of using
marijuana, but action has yet to be taken and definitely won't be put
in place before recreational marijuana is legalized.

In short, many Canadians want the recreational use of marijuana to be
legalized, but no one asked for a slapdash approach to be taken. For a
government that claims to take consultation seriously, I would expect
them to listen to the sensible voices of police authorities,
provincial, municipal and aboriginal leaders, medical experts and the
Canadian public.

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Rachael Harder is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Lethbridge. 
Her column appears the first Friday of the month.
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