Cannabis co­nun­drum

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - Editorial -

Think about it not as mar­i­juana, but as smoke — and then think about just how com­pli­cated the fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal reg­u­la­tion of the drug will be. Con­sider this ad­mit­tedly lu­di­crous ex­am­ple: say you were in Van­cou­ver, you were hav­ing com­pany in and wanted to show off to your guests by burn­ing a big batt of weed in your old-style fire­place. Once the stuff is le­gal, you can do what you like, right?

Well, maybe not — and not be­cause it’s weed, but be­cause it makes smoke, and that smoke could threaten air qual­ity.

Van­cou­ver is look­ing at re­quir­ing those who use stoves and fire­places to move to more ex­pen­sive, higher ef­fi­ciency wood­stoves and fire­places.

It’s just one part of the com­plex­ity of bring­ing a new prod­uct into a leg­isla­tive frame­work — one where, keep in mind, smok­able prod­ucts are al­ready highly reg­u­lated.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are wait­ing for prov­inces to bring down rules on mar­i­juana use and sales to de­cide things like mu­nic­i­pal zon­ing reg­u­la­tions. At least one prov­ince, On­tario, has al­ready launched its pro­vin­cial law reg­u­lat­ing use of the drug, and has run into some in­ter­est­ing is­sues. The prov­ince will han­dle the dis­tri­bu­tion of the drug, and will bring into ef­fect a reg­u­la­tory regime that will slap il­le­gal pri­vate dis­pen­saries with mas­sive fines. Cor­po­ra­tions could be fined $1 mil­lion, while in­di­vid­u­als could face $100,000 fines.

Even more chal­leng­ing is where you’ll be al­lowed to smoke: the On­tario law is propos­ing that adults will only be al­lowed to smoke mar­i­juana in their own homes.

Ex­ist­ing law for cig­a­rette smok­ing in On­tario blocks smok­ing in com­mon ar­eas of apart­ment build­ings, and you can ap­peal to the prov­ince’s res­i­den­tial ten­an­cies board if a neigh­bour’s smok­ing is af­fect­ing your qual­ity of life. In some cases, a ten­ant can be evicted for fail­ing to ad­dress sec­ond­hand smoke con­cerns.

But the pro­posed mar­i­juana law gives peo­ple pre­cious few op­tions of places to smoke other than their home or apart­ment.

On the one hand, you could ar­gue the On­tario law un­fairly does through the back door what fed­eral law was al­ready do­ing through the front: make it dif­fi­cult to smoke weed legally by al­low­ing peo­ple to smoke, but then fenc­ing them in with rules.

P.E.I. is mov­ing through the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process to ad­dress the prob­lems that the smok­ing of mar­i­juana cre­ates. Nova Sco­tia is, as well. Both point out that at their level of ju­ris­dic­tion, the main is­sues are rules around pub­lic con­sump­tion and health.

In New­found­land and Labrador, a gov­ern­ment sur­vey to be used in draft­ing laws pointed out that 87 per cent of re­spon­dents wanted re­stric­tions on weed use sim­i­lar to those placed on to­bacco.

It’s the kind of com­pli­ca­tions that would make a leg­is­la­tor’s head spin. And ev­ery day, the time left to put laws in place shrinks.

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