Prov­ince so­lic­its pot feed­back

A new on­line sur­vey al­lows Saskatchewan res­i­dents to weigh in on what the prov­ince’s mar­i­juana regime should look like

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - NEWS - ARTHUR WHITECRUMMEY

Saskatchewan res­i­dents can now share their thoughts on who should be able to buy, sell and grow mar­i­juana, with just a few clicks on a gov­ern­ment sur­vey.

Ot­tawa plans to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana by July of 2018, but is leav­ing it up to the prov­inces to de­sign their own reg­u­la­tory sys­tem. The provin­cial gov­ern­ment launched an on­line sur­vey Fri­day to so­licit pub­lic feed­back. It’s open to any Saskatchewan res­i­dent over the age of 18, and is set to run un­til Oc­to­ber 6.

“The le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis rep­re­sents a big change,” Jus­tice Min­is­ter and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Don Mor­gan was quoted as say­ing in a press re­lease.

“We want to take the time to lis­ten to and con­sult with the peo­ple of this prov­ince to en­sure we im­ple­ment the parts of this leg­is­la­tion that are un­der our con­trol in a way that works for Saskatchewan.”

Res­i­dents can re­main anony­mous as they an­swer 26 ques­tions about mar­i­juana reg­u­la­tion. They can choose whether cannabis should be sold on­line or in re­tail stores, and whether those stores should be gov­ern­ment-run, cor­po­rate-run or small busi­nesses.

The sur­vey gives three se­lec­tions for the min­i­mum age of con­sump­tion, 18, 19 and 21, though re­spon­dents can key in a higher num­ber if they wish. They can also weigh in on where peo­ple should be able to grow mar­i­juana plants and how much cannabis they should be per­mit­ted to buy at once. There are also ques­tions on whether mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should be able to pass stricter reg­u­la­tions to con­trol mar­i­juana sales and how drug-im­paired driv­ing laws should com­pare to drunk driv­ing penal­ties.

The ques­tion­naire came on­line on the very day that On­tario an­nounced a mar­i­juana frame­work that many are call­ing dra­co­nian. Un­der the On­tario plan, all pri­vate dis­pen­saries will be shut down and smok­ing pot will be for­bid­den in all pub­lic ar­eas.

In a press con­fer­ence Fri­day, Mor­gan said that the gov­ern­ment will pay at­ten­tion to what other prov­inces roll out and that he favours “con­sis­tency” across the coun­try. But he said they aren’t sure whether On­tario’s “gov­ern­ment model” is best for Saskatchewan.

“We haven’t made any de­ci­sion as to whether that would be some­thing that would be a strong con­tender for con­sid­er­a­tion here,” he said. “I sus­pect we would be look­ing at other op­tions.”

If Saskatchewan goes for a pri­vate model, he sug­gested, dis­pen­saries op­er­at­ing il­le­gally would be able to le­gal­ize their op­er­a­tions. He said that the gov­ern­ment has not yet made a de­ci­sion on whether cannabis will be avail­able in liquor stores. Tax­a­tion will likely be “sim­i­lar” to what’s in place for al­co­hol and to­bacco.

On im­paired driv­ing, he said that new driv­ers would likely face a “zero” limit, while ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers would be per­mit­ted to have a small amount in their sys­tem – so long as they aren’t im­paired.

Mor­gan ex­plained that the prov­ince has four pri­or­i­ties for its sys­tem: re­strict­ing the il­le­gal mar­ket, keep­ing pot away from children and youth, pro­tect­ing health and pro­mot­ing safety on road­ways, work­places and pub­lic spa­ces. The sur­vey al­lows re­spon­dents to rank those con­cerns.

Saskatchewan has asked the feds for a one-year ex­ten­sion while it con­sid­ers its op­tions, Mor­gan ex­plained. But he stressed that, what­ever hap­pens, the prov­ince wants to have a reg­u­la­tory frame­work ready by dead­line.

“We have to have some­thing in place by then,” he said. “We don’t want to be in a place where the fed­eral gov­ern­ment leg­is­la­tion is in place and our pro­tec­tive scheme or our reg­u­la­tory scheme is not there.”

Mor­gan said that the prov­ince will likely roll out a dis­cus­sion pa­per, with an ini­tial po­si­tion, after con­sid­er­ing the con­cerns res­i­dents raise in the sur­vey. He said leg­is­la­tion prob­a­bly won’t be passed un­til the spring ses­sion, when a new premier has taken of­fice. But bu­reau­crats are al­ready hard at work get­ting things ready.

“I think we’ve got re­ally good peo­ple work­ing within the min­istries giv­ing us ad­vice,” he said.

The sur­vey can be ac­cessed at: http:// www.saskatchewan.ca/gov­ern­ment/ news-and-me­dia/2017/septem­ber/08/ cannabis-sur­vey

PHOTO: PIXABAY

Ac­cord­ing to fed­eral law, Cana­di­ans will soon be able to grow up to four plants like this. But Saskatchewan will lay out the specifics.

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