Mar­i­juana rules re­main hazy

Fed­eral min­is­ter, pro­vin­cial coun­ter­parts meet to es­tab­lish com­mon ground on is­sues

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - IAN MUL­GREW imul­grew@post­

Af­ter two days of meet­ings in Van­cou­ver, the na­tion’s jus­tice and public safety min­is­ters were vague and hazy Fri­day about what the loom­ing le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis will ac­tu­ally look like.

The min­is­ters said they had a “ro­bust” dis­cus­sion about the weed, but seemed to agree only that many chal­lenges re­mained — not the least of which was meet­ing what was called an “am­bi­tious” July 1 dead­line for end­ing the near-cen­tury-old pot pro­hi­bi­tion.

“All ju­ris­dic­tions dis­cussed the is­sues of sup­ply and de­mand of cannabis and the im­por­tance of ad­dress­ing youth is­sues and road safety,” Fed­eral Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wilson-Ray­bould said.

She stressed “the goal of pro­tect­ing the health of young per­sons” and em­pha­sized that pro­tect­ing Cana­di­ans was para­mount in cre­at­ing a reg­u­la­tory frame­work cov­er­ing cannabis prod­uct safety, la­belling, pack­ag­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing.

“I think ju­ris­dic­tions agree gen­er­ally this process must con­tinue and it must fo­cus on the pro­tec­tion of public health, keep­ing prof­its away from crim­i­nals, pro­tect­ing public safety on our roads and keep­ing cannabis out of the hands of chil­dren,” Al­berta’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Kath­leen Gan­ley added.

“We have sig­nif­i­cant work to do on this file.”

Gan­ley said her govern­ment had al­ready com­pleted the first stage of a con­sul­ta­tion process in which it had re­ceived feed­back from more than 45,000 Al­berta res­i­dents.

The prov­ince was us­ing those sur­vey re­sponses to for­mu­late a leg­isla­tive frame­work for le­gal­ized cannabis that will be avail­able in a few weeks for public com­ment.

“Ob­vi­ously again, this is not an area where you can reach com­plete con­sen­sus,” she noted. “There’s go­ing to be diver­gent views when you are try­ing to bal­ance public health, public safety and the pro­tec­tion of our chil­dren.”

B.C.’s two hosts of the event — new NDP At­tor­ney Gen­eral David Eby and Public Safety Min­is­ter Mike Farn­worth — ad­mit­ted to play­ing catch up.

“We are a bit be­hind other prov­inces be­cause of the election and the sub­se­quent de­lay in the new govern­ment be­ing sworn in, but cer­tainly that is­sue (con­sul­ta­tion) is crit­i­cal to the frame­work of how we are go­ing to deal with the is­sue in B.C.,” said Farn­worth, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for le­gal­iza­tion.

“It was very much an ini­tial meet­ing for us and an op­por­tu­nity to hear (things) first­hand. We think it was very use­ful, cer­tainly help­ful for us in terms of our de­lib­er­a­tions and the strate­gies we are go­ing to be tak­ing in terms of im­ple­ment­ing the frame­work, in terms of the needs we have in B.C.”

Since be­ing sworn in July 18, Farn­worth’s at­ten­tion has been fo­cused on the rag­ing wild fires. He only lifted the provincewide state of emer­gency at mid­night Fri­day.

In spite of his re­cent ap­point­ment, though, it should be re­mem­bered Farn­worth vis­ited the U.S. to study the ex­pe­ri­ence of the hand­ful of states that have le­gal­ized and is fa­mil­iar with this brief.

“We are look­ing right now with con­sid­er­able in­ter­est at the pro­gram, the model On­tario has an­nounced,” he said.

“What we have said is we have not landed on any spe­cific model at this par­tic­u­lar point. Where we are right now is start­ing the con­sul­ta­tion stage — we think that is crit­i­cally im­por­tant.”

Farn­worth promised he would have more to say about that process at the up­com­ing meet­ing of the Union of B.C. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and in­sisted no de­ci­sions would be made un­til con­sul­ta­tions were fin­ished.

“What was great was to hear not only what is be­ing done,” Farn­worth en­thused about the meet­ing, “but to get a good solid un­der­stand­ing of the com­mon­al­ity of the chal­lenges that we face whether it is around the is­sues of time­lines, whether it is around is­sues of ed­u­ca­tion and en­force­ment, is­sues around re­tail for ex­am­ple, all those things which we are now in a po­si­tion to make de­ci­sions upon. I think we have had some very im­por­tant dis­cus­sions.”

Dif­fer­ent age lim­its for con­sump­tion of pot and sep­a­rate reg­u­la­tory regimes across the coun­try were not con­sid­ered is­sues, Al­berta’s Gan­ley said, be­cause there al­ready was a patch­work quilt of to­bacco and al­co­hol reg­u­la­tion cov­er­ing the na­tion.


Fed­eral Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wilson-Ray­bould, sec­ond right, and Min­is­ter of Public Safety and Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness Ralph Goodale, cen­tre, stand with B.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral David Eby, left, B.C. Min­is­ter of Public Safety Mike Farn­worth and Al­berta Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Kath­leen Gan­ley, right, af­ter a meet­ing of fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial min­is­ters of jus­tice.


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