Toronto should be lead­ing, not scram­bling

Cannabis cul­ture will pro­vide tourism and cul­tural rev­enue

Village Post - - NEWS - by Ron John­son

Last month, Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau got the mar­i­juana ball rolling, in­tro­duc­ing bills that pave the way for le­gal­iza­tion by July 2018.

What is sur­pris­ing is the dis­con­nect be­tween what is hap­pen­ing in Ot­tawa and Toronto. No­body seems to want to take re­spon­si­bil­ity: not the fed­eral govern­ment, not city coun­cil and cer­tainly not Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice.

It is ab­surd that a dis­pen­sary in the busi­ness of sell­ing cannabis can legally lease a build­ing, open a busi­ness, hire staff, pay busi­ness taxes, pay in­come tax to Canada Rev­enue Agency, and TPS can still break down doors and cart these peo­ple off, with crim­i­nal records and po­ten­tial pri­son time.

If they know these op­er­a­tions are il­le­gal, why take the tax rev­enue? That is just one ques­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment’s own panel, it is up to the province to de­cide the dis­tri­bu­tion mech­a­nism at the re­tail level, and it might just be dis­pen­saries. So why not take the op­por­tu­nity for a test run?

Van­cou­ver took the bold step of es­tab­lish­ing rules gov­ern­ing dis­pen­saries to fill in the gap un­til the dis­tri­bu­tion frame­work un­der le­gal­iza­tion is es­tab­lished.

This makes sense. Why are we, a pur­port­edly world-class city, act­ing like a two-bit back­wa­ter still scared of the

Reefer Mad­ness bo­gey­man? Neigh­bour­hood res­i­dents have ex­pressed ev­ery­thing from con­cern to out­rage re­gard­ing the pres­ence of dis­pen­saries, most of which are closed in short or­der. Fair and le­gal. But if the city got off its col­lec­tive keis­ter and es­tab­lished rules for gov­ern­ing these places, we as a pro­gres­sive city could de­cide how close to schools they could be, what hours of op­er­a­tion would work in what ar­eas, what equip­ment could or could not be used or how staff need to be trained. Heck, we could send in a slew of city by­law of­fi­cers. In turn, dis­pen­saries would be out of ex­cuses and ben­e­fit from clar­ity.

The Junc­tion neigh­bour­hood in the city wasn’t even allowed ac­cess to the de­mon liquor un­til the year 2000. Yes, you read that cor­rectly. But now it seems to be the cen­tre of the city’s craft beer uni­verse, pro­vid­ing a se­ri­ous eco­nomic boon for the nowtrendy neigh­bour­hood.

Drink­ing al­co­hol has been le­gal for less than a cen­tury, but we’ve man­aged to main­tain a sem­blance of or­der since then. We will be just fine.

And as our mar­i­juana colum­nist, Lju­bica Kos­tovic, tells us in her col­umn, le­gal­iza­tion might pro­vide a large in­crease in tourism busi­ness in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing more cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties. It’s a brave new world. It’s time to start get­ting ahead of the curve.

Ac­tivist Marc Emery (right) at Post City’s 2016 mar­i­juana round­table

RON JOHN­SON

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