Prov­ince go­ing to pot?

On­tario AG an­nounces plans to put con­trols in place con­cern­ing sale of recre­ational mar­i­juana

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL BROWNE BAR­RIE EXAMINER

It might well be the end of the world as we know it.

But On­tario At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi’s an­nounce­ment on the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana – or cannabis as it’s now be­ing re­ferred to – next July 1 is con­sid­ered fine by many recre­ational pot smok­ers.

“If passed, the fed­eral bill will set into mo­tion a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion change for our so­ci­ety; the end of pro­hi­bi­tion,” Naqvi said at the press con­fer­ence Friday.

Flanked by Min­is­ter of Health and Long-Term Care Dr. Eric Hoskins and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa, Naqvi said the On­tario gov­ern­ment is at the be­gin­ning of what is ex­pected to be a long process of le­gal­iza­tion, and it is com­mit­ted to mak­ing the tough de­ci­sions now.

“In or­der to be ready for next July, our gov­ern­ment will bring for­ward leg­is­la­tion this fall to en­sure that even af­ter le­gal­iza­tion, cannabis re­mains a care­fully con­trolled sub­stance in On­tario,” he said.

Naqvi said the gov­ern­ment’s key points of ap­proach fall into two broad cat­e­gories in­clud­ing law­ful use; that’s the who, what and where can cannabis be used, as well as the re­tail side of things; the how and where cannabis can be sold.

“We know that a crit­i­cal part of il­lu­mi­nat­ing the il­le­gal mar­ket is de­vel­op­ing a safe and sen­si­ble ap­proach to re­tail,” Naqvi said. “As we build up a safe re­spon­si­ble chan­nel for recre­ational cannabis, our twin goals will be stop­ping the sale of il­le­gal, un­reg­u­lated and un­safe cannabis.”

He said, as with to­bacco and al­co­hol, On­tar­i­ans aged 19 and over will be al­lowed to pur­chase pot, yet if young teenagers are caught with a small amount, of­fi­cers will con­fis­cate it rather than leave them with life-long crim­i­nal records.

While the Sim­coe Muskoka District Health Unit had called for 21 to be the le­gal smok­ing age, the or­ga­ni­za­tion is largely sat­is­fied by the pro­posal from the prov­ince.

“On the whole, we’re very pleased about the gov­ern­ment’s plans for strong con­trols,” said Dr. Lisa Si­mon, as­so­ciate med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health.

“We’re happy to see the an­nounce­ment of a gov­ern­men­towned and con­trolled sys­tem for ac­cess,” she said.

As for where, Naqvi said cur­rent re­tail dis­pen­saries are not le­gal and that won’t change un­der the new leg­is­la­tion.

Sousa spoke about the prov­ince’s new work­ing model that will use an LCBO -style shop that will only sell one prod­uct.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence in other ju­ris­dic­tions, such as the United States, has shown us that it is bet­ter to start with strong con­trols and eval­u­ate the sys­tem over time. Sousa said.

“There­fore the LCBO will es­tab­lish sep­a­rate and ded­i­cated stand­alone cannabis re­tail stores as well as on­line sales,” he said.

The fed­eral frame­work dic­tates the sale of cannabis must be be­hind the counter and can­not be sold along­side al­co­hol, Sousa said.

Sousa said On­tario should see as many as 80 pot shops open by the end of 2018 and another 70 opened by 2020.

The three Bar­rie mar­i­juana stores that jumped the gun and opened in 2016 were just as abruptly shut down when the feds cracked down on the re­tail side of things by in­sti­gat­ing its Ac­cess to Cannabis for Med­i­cal Pur­poses Reg­u­la­tions (ACMPR) which only al­lows med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pa­tients to buy from li­censed pro­duc­ers as of last Au­gust.

Another area of con­cern is Sousa’s state­ment that like al­co­hol and to­bacco, there will be a ban on smok­ing pot in pub­lic places.

While the health unit be­lieves it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion, Si­mon won­ders where that will send the smok­ers.

“They’re say­ing at this point that smok­ing and va­p­ing of cannabis can only be done in pri­vate set­tings; the only con­cern there is that you’re push­ing all use in­doors,” Si­mon said. “Even if it’s in a pri­vate dwelling, sec­ond- and third-hand smoke is still a con­cern, par­tic­u­larly if you live in a mul­tiu­nit dwelling — an apart­ment or a condo — where you don’t have a pri­vate out­door space.”

Tucked in be­hind the Five-Points in­ter­sec­tion, Gil­lian and Chris Green run a café and vape shop, where res­i­dents can vape a lit­tle weed with their morn­ing java.

Ac­cord­ing to Smoke-Free On­tario leg­is­la­tion, Gil­lian says as the cur­rent rules don’t pro­hibit peo­ple from va­p­ing mar­i­juana in their es­tab­lish­ment.

“The leg­is­la­tion states, ‘by law you can­not smoke or hold lighted to­bacco in any en­closed work­place, any en­closed pub­lic places and specif­i­cally des­ig­nated out­door places in On­tario’,” Green said. “Be­cause mar­i­juana is il­le­gal, it wasn’t in­cluded in the leg­is­la­tion, so we’ve been able to op­er­ate here be­cause there’s no law that says we can’t.”

As of Friday’s an­nounce­ment, Green said she be­lieves they’ll be al­lowed to op­er­ate un­til Canada Day, and will fight to re­main open when the new rules come into ef­fect next year.

Bar­rie Po­lice Chief Kim­ber­ley Green­wood says she’s con­cerned about the over-use of cannabis in Bar­rie.

“The Bar­rie Po­lice Ser­vice con­tin­ues to see mar­i­juana mis­use on our city streets which is wor­ri­some,” Green­wood said.

She wants more train­ing for of­fi­cers to en­force the new laws, specif­i­cally con­cern­ing drug-im­paired driv­ing.

CH­ERYL BROWNE/BAR­RIE EXAMINER

Gil­lian and Chris Green own and op­er­ate Green Sprouts Café and Va­por Lounge in down­town Bar­rie, where cus­tomers can drink cof­fee and vape mar­i­juana legally. The Greens agree with the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana but wish the On­tario gov­ern­ment would al­low small busi­nesses to sell it.

CH­ERYL BROWNE/BAR­RIE EXAMINER

Down­town busi­ness co-owner An­drew Bat­ten of Unique Ink be­lieves mar­i­juana shouldn't only be avail­able for medic­i­nal pur­poses but fears over-reg­u­la­tion by the gov­ern­ment. Bat­ten, who uses mar­i­juana for med­i­cal rea­sons, grows his own plants and has cre­ated a balm for skin ab­sorp­tion for his per­sonal use.

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