TORIES’ POT PLAN IS PREEMO

It will kick in same time as fed­eral laws

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - AN­DRE MARIN @On­t_An­dreMarin

Fed­eral leg­is­la­tion le­gal­iz­ing pot will likely come into force on Tues­day.

A com­ple­men­tary SmokeFree On­tario Act, 2017, pro­vid­ing a frame­work for all of this to un­fold in On­tario is ex­pected to kick in con­comi­tantly. The bill is ex­pected to be amended in time to rid it of its pre­vi­ous bad bits un­der the Lib­er­als.

Un­der the former gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed law reg­u­lat­ing the use of pot, the roll­out would have been ag­o­niz­ingly slow and clumsy. Former At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi in­eptly pro­posed 40 planned pot shops to open in the sum­mer 2019 — al­most a year af­ter le­gal­iza­tion — then 150 prov­ince-wide in 2020. All shops were to be run by gov­ern­ment.

Naqvi said “Th­ese pot stores that we see in our neigh­bour­hoods to­day are il­le­gal. They will re­main il­le­gal — only the On­tario Cannabis Re­tail Cor­po­ra­tion

(run by On­tario bu­reau­crats) could sell cannabis for recre­ational pur­poses.”

This ham-fisted roll­out of mar­i­juana would have neutered the stated in­tent of the leg­is­la­tion by Naqvi’s fed­eral Lib­eral cousins which was to elim­i­nate the black-mar­ket.

In a prov­ince of nearly 14 mil­lion peo­ple, how this re­gres­sive nanny state ap­proach to ac­ces­si­bil­ity would in any way put pot deal­ers out of busi­ness when le­gal pot would be so in­ac­ces­si­ble is beyond com­pre­hen­sion.

The only way to wipe out il­le­gal deal­ers is to com­pete on qual­ity, price and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Why buy pot of un­known qual­ity from a seedy dope dealer in a dark al­ley when you can ac­cess a prop­erly reg­u­lated store and buy qual­ity stuff at com­pet­i­tive prices?

Con­sider this. The LCBO has al­most 700 stores and nearly 500 gro­cery stores that can sell beer and wine. That’s why you don’t see boot­legged booze of­fered in dark al­leys.

Premier Doug Ford’s gov­ern­ment has taken a very dif­fer­ent and re­fresh­ing view to the dis­tri­bu­tion and con­sump­tion of pot. Dis­tri­bu­tion would be left to the pri­vate sec­tor reg­u­lated by the Al­co­hol and Gam­ing Com­mis­sion while the con­sump­tion would be treated like the use of cig­a­rettes.

In other words, keep it sim­ple stupid. This would al­low for free mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion and a sim­ple un­der­stand­ing of when peo­ple can toke up. If you are go­ing to make pot le­gal, why put up un­nec­es­sary ob­sta­cles?

The fly in the oint­ment, and the un­for­tu­nate part, is that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would be given the right to fur­ther reg­u­late the stuff, lead­ing to a patch­work of dif­fer­ent rules through­out On­tario.

Al­ready former Lib­eral cab­i­net min­is­ter and Ot­tawa Mayor Jim Wat­son, cur­rently run­ning for re-elec­tion, sounded alarmist and pu­ri­tan­i­cal by say­ing that the prospect of smok­ing pot on side­walks is of­fen­sive to him.

He added: “I be­lieve that cannabis should be treated like al­co­hol and it should not be con­sumed in open, pub­lic places.” A po­si­tion echo­ing that of his old pals at Queen’s Park, who were re­duced to non-party sta­tus in the last elec­tion. If Wat­son’s re-elected, pre­pare for that “back to the fu­ture” men­tal­ity. And I’m sure he’s not the only lo­cal politi­cian want­ing to walk-back the slow progress on this is­sue.

All this against the back­drop that it is well-known al­co­hol abuse is re­spon­si­ble for caus­ing much more may­hem, so­cial and health prob­lems than pot. Politi­cians shouldn’t let ide­ol­ogy get in the way of logic by cre­at­ing bo­gey­men out of it.

The dis­cus­sion about le­gal­iz­ing pot goes way back to the fed­eral Lib­er­als in 1993. It was re­vived as an elec­tion prom­ise, again by the Lib­er­als in the 2015 elec­tion. And af­ter all that time, it should hap­pen this week. Let’s not fur­ther com­pli­cate things by let­ting moral­is­tic lo­cal politi­cians set-up un­founded re­stric­tions that will ham­per all the work that’s been done since then.

It’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion time in On­tario. There will never be a bet­ter time to re­mind lo­cal politi­cians on the hus­tings to smarten-up and lay their hands off pot. Let’s not fix what isn’t bro­ken.

NAQVI Slow, clumsy plan

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