Le­gal weed — ex­pect snags

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

Well, we’re so close to Canada’s big weed ex­per­i­ment that you can al­most smell it.

The truth is, you can smell it al­ready — po­lice de­part­ments may still be charg­ing the oc­ca­sional un­lucky user, but weed’s al­ready al­most ev­ery­where.

I walk to work, and there’s al­ready plenty of pub­lic smok­ing on the go — con­struc­tion work­ers on a ma­jor project start­ing their day with a morn­ing “hot­box,” their truck win­dows grey with smoke, one or two houses where there’s reg­u­larly some­one out on the deck pun­gently greet­ing the day, other walk­ers wreathed in what is un­ques­tion­ably a cannabis cloud.

But with le­gal weed ar­riv­ing in a mere five days, are we ready? Are gov­ern­ments/po­lice de­part­ments/sup­pli­ers/grow­ers ready for the next few weeks and months?

I don’t think so — and that’s what’s go­ing to make the next while very in­ter­est­ing.

There are a grow­ing num­ber of ques­tions about cannabis use that have yet to be an­swered. The fact is, the on­line as­pect of le­gal­iza­tion that seems to be pro­ceed­ing on sched­ule is how pre­pared pro­vin­cial and pri­vate re­tail­ers are go­ing to be to sell from the very first day that le­gal weed can be on the mar­ket.

On every­thing else, though, the name of the game seems to be play­ing catch-up.

Are po­lice go­ing to find them­selves be­com­ing the mod­ern cannabis equiv­a­lent of Ap­palachian “rev­enuers,” on the hunt for weed that’s il­le­gal sim­ply be­cause the right taxes haven’t been paid on it?

Are pro­duc­ers go­ing to run short as they ramp up pro­duc­tion?

How are hu­man re­la­tions and per­son­nel de­part­ments go­ing to deal with staff us­ing — and even abus­ing — a le­gal prod­uct?

Are cur­rent users who pur­chase their weed on the black mar­ket go­ing to find their way to le­gal pur­chases, or will it be­come even eas­ier for il­le­gal deal­ers to stay in busi­ness? (Af­ter all, cannabis prod­ucts have been avail­able on­line for years, with the ease of post of­fice de­liv­ery and vir­tu­ally no law en­force­ment in­ter­ven­tion what­so­ever. Keep in mind as well that gov­ern­ments of­ten take fast ac­tion — at close to leg­isla­tive light speed — when they feel some­thing is threat­en­ing a tax stream.)

Will po­lice forces be able to deal ef­fec­tively with drugged driv­ers, with train­ing still not com­plete and many po­lice forces with­out road­side drug test­ing equip­ment? Heck, it’s clearly im­pos­si­ble for po­lice of­fi­cers to han­dle the grow­ing scourge of il­le­gal cell­phone use/ tex­ting by driv­ers.

I think what sur­prises me the most about the whole process is the way it’s chugged steadily for­wards de­spite the ma­jor and ob­vi­ous hic­cups and pit­falls — af­ter all, less con­tro­ver­sial is­sues have run aground on much smaller shoals.

Are gov­ern­ments/po­lice de­part­ments/sup­pli­ers/ grow­ers ready for the next few weeks and months?

I mean, the con­cept that peo­ple who buy and store deadly weapons should have to reg­is­ter them with the gov­ern­ment — even though vir­tu­ally no one bats an eye at the need to have li­cence plates on their car — was an in­cen­di­ary enough is­sue to help top­ple a fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis, on the other hand, gen­er­ates head­lines only when there are prac­ti­cal is­sues that still need to be ad­dressed. We seem to be well past the point where over­ar­ch­ing philo­soph­i­cal is­sues ques­tion­ing le­gal­iza­tion as a whole are even be­ing ad­dressed.

And that hasn’t hap­pened with, say, gun reg­is­tra­tion; even though the long gun reg­istry is long gone, any time any reg­is­tra­tion is raised in any form, op­po­si­tion rises up al­most im­me­di­ately.

Is the Weed Apoc­a­lypse ap­proach­ing?

No.

But as with all in­com­plete plans, there’s go­ing to be a lot of change, from pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion to fed­eral leg­is­la­tion to mu­nic­i­pal by­laws.

Cannabis le­gal­iza­tion is very much a work in progress. And that work con­tin­ues even af­ter Wed­nes­day’s big le­gal smoke.

Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell. wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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