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 second-hand 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.