Pot le­gal­iza­tion is no pipe dream, so author­i­ties should roll with it

The Globe and Mail (Atlantic Edition) - - NEWS - CAMP­BELL CLARK cclark@globe­and­mail.com

Too quick, many of the prov­inces say. There just isn’t time to put in place a way to dis­trib­ute le­gal­ized mar­i­juana, and all the rules and schemes needed. Oh no, the po­lice say, the time­lines are tight, and they’re wor­ried that they won’t be ready for polic­ing in the brave new world of le­gal pot.

Okay folks, let’s stop talk­ing like slack­ers. This doesn’t have to drag on for years.

The le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana has been de­bated in Cana­dian pol­i­tics since the 1970s and stud­ied by task forces and com­mit­tees for decades. It has been of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment pol­icy for two years. There are still 10 months be­fore it is slated to be le­gal in July. Sure, there are sig­nif­i­cant de­tails to work out – but this is not Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble.

It’s one thing for the prov­inces and po­lice to say they haven’t yet got all the de­tails of the leg­is­la­tion. But the plan to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana has been com­ing at them in slow mo­tion through con­sul­ta­tions and a task force led by for­mer jus­tice min­is­ter Anne McLel­lan.

There is in­er­tia. Some peo­ple are against it. And there could be crit­i­cism about the way it’s rolled out. So peo­ple are scream­ing there’s no time.

If there was no dead­line, the de­tails would keep be­ing trou­ble­some, and un­re­solved, for years.

The prov­inces have to fig­ure out how le­gal mar­i­juana will be sold in their ju­ris­dic­tions and the de­tails of non-crim­i­nal sanc­tions – tick­ets – for breach­ing some of the new reg­u­la­tions.

It’s not hard to see why prov­inces view this as a pain. This wasn’t their prom­ise, it was Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s. It takes time and po­lit­i­cal ef­fort away from their own pri­or­i­ties. And an­nounc­ing their own mar­i­juana plans will au­to­mat­i­cally bring grief.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment was first, an­nounc­ing a plan to have le­gal mar­i­juana sold in up to 150 gov­ern­ment-run stores op­er­ated by the Liquor Con­trol Board of On­tario.

Pre­mier Kathleen Wynne’s Lib­er­als were crit­i­cized for com­ing up with a heavy-handed, statist regime.

That’s fair enough, if you be­lieve there’s a bet­ter way, but any mar­i­juana plan will be crit­i­cized for be­ing too re­stric­tive, or too lax, or not cen­tred enough on health, or pro­tect­ing chil­dren. No won­der pre­miers are not rush­ing to an­nounce theirs. Ms. Wynne’s main op­po­nent, On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Pa­trick Brown, ar­gued that the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana “should not be rushed to suit a po­lit­i­cal time­line.” You can guess that without a po­lit­i­cal time­line Mr. Brown would never have a plan.

It’s not as though there is no ex­pe­ri­ence with reg­u­lat­ing sub­stances. Ev­ery prov­ince has liquor con­trols. There are pro­vin­cial pe­nal schemes that in­volve is­su­ing fines or tick­ets for con­tra­ven­ing reg­u­la­tions. It’s not sim­ple, but it’s not im­pos­si­ble.

The po­lice have a se­ri­ous job, so their con­cerns shouldn’t be dis­missed out of hand. They worry about train­ing their of­fi­cers for the new law, pre­vent­ing or­ga­nized crime from sell­ing mar­i­juana to kids un­der 18 and polic­ing for driv­ing-while-stoned of­fences, which they say will re­quire new equip­ment and more train­ing.

But this is not the first change to the crim­i­nal law. The po­lice have been hear­ing the out­lines of the law for a while. They have ques­tions about tick­et­ing for mi­nor mar­i­juana of­fences, but cops have been is­su­ing tick­ets for a good long time. They ask how they’re go­ing to deal with or­ga­nized crime, but mostly, it will be the same way as be­fore.

The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice ar­gues forces will need money and time to dou­ble the num­ber of of­fi­cers cer­ti­fied to con­duct stoned-driv­ing tests.

But le­gal­iza­tion will not be the first time a joint was ever smoked in Canada. Half the pop­u­la­tion has tried mar­i­juana. There’s no rea­son to be­lieve the roads will be filled overnight with aim­lessly weav­ing driv­ers. That’s just reefer mad­ness.

And for once, the po­lice don’t have cause to com­plain Ot­tawa hasn’t funded train­ing: The fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced last week it will pour $274-mil­lion into train­ing, labs and so on.

There will be mis­takes, but not be­cause there hasn’t been enough time.

Le­gal­iza­tion is sup­posed to stop mak­ing crim­i­nals out of peo­ple who do what half the coun­try has done.

De­cid­ing that needs to be done, then de­lay­ing it for years, dis­cred­its the crim­i­nal law. Without a dead­line, it seems, a lot of peo­ple wouldn’t be able to fo­cus.

DAVE CHAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Prov­inces and po­lice are urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to slow down on mov­ing for­ward with mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion, say­ing they’re not yet pre­pared. But all this de­bate is dis­cred­it­ing the crim­i­nal law.

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