No short­age of fear and alarm at pot hear­ings

Waterloo Region Record - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT - Tim Harper Tim Harper writes on na­tional af­fairs for Torstar news­pa­pers.

It’s dif­fi­cult to an­a­lyze the im­pact of Ot­tawa’s com­ing mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion with stud­ies and num­bers and ex­am­i­na­tions of other ju­ris­dic­tions.

This is the type of so­cial leg­is­la­tion that sparks emo­tions that can’t be al­layed with pie charts.

There are many thou­sands, if not mil­lions, of Canadian par­ents wor­ried this will make it eas­ier for their chil­dren to find pot.

On the other hand, an un­told num­ber of par­ents are likely to spark one up tonight to re­lax af­ter the kids head to bed.

At a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day — one of a week long se­ries of hear­ings on the mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion — it was left to Amer­i­can visi­tors to cut through the Canadian para­noia that dom­i­nated most of the day.

Of­fi­cials from Colorado and Washington brought the tem­per­a­ture down on the ques­tion of use by youth, may­hem in the streets and time­lines.

A Colorado of­fi­cial likened their ex­pe­ri­ence to “fly­ing the plane while we were still build­ing it.” But they got there. It was left to Canadian po­lice, aided and abet­ted, by Con­ser­va­tive MPs to raise the alarm bells.

Po­lice say it will be im­pos­si­ble for them to be ready by the July 2018, leg­is­la­tion date. The pe­riod be­tween pas­sage of the leg­is­la­tion and the time po­lice are ready is when or­ga­nized crime will re­ally gain an un­shak­able toe­hold on the pot in­dus­try, warned Rick Bar­num, the OPP deputy com­mis­sioner for or­ga­nized crime.

The OPP and the Canadian As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice said they need hun­dreds more of­fi­cers trained in cannabis-im­paired driv­ing recog­ni­tion.

But when, ex­actly, do po­lice not ask for more time and money?

They also painted a hor­rific pic­ture of the re­sult of the leg­is­la­tion that al­lows a limit of four plants for home grows. This isn’t four lit­tle plants sit­ting on a win­dow sill, said Mike Serr of the CAPC. Maybe not, but he out­lined an eye-pop­ping pic­ture of how one in­door plant would yield 60 to 100 grams per plant in a build­ing of 200 units in which half were grow­ing mar­i­juana, caus­ing safety haz­ards, home in­va­sions, pot for kids and safety vi­o­la­tions.

To be sure, there are some re­al­i­ties at play here. The most dam­ag­ing thing that can come from mar­i­juana use, whether you are a youth or an adult, is be­ing en­snared in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Un­der this leg­is­la­tion, adults with more than 30 grams, youths with more than five grams or some­one who tries to sneak a fifth plant into their home are all crim­i­nals.

It is un­fair to crim­i­nal­ize an 18-year-old with six grams of mar­i­juana in his pos­ses­sion when his 19-year-old brother can legally buy 30 grams.

It is bla­tant hypocrisy to con­tinue to lay pos­ses­sion charges as le­gal­iza­tion looms.

As many as 17,000 pos­ses­sion charges were laid in 2016, dis­pro­por­tion­ately laid against the marginal­ized and racial­ized, as re­cently re­ported in the Star.

And it is also bla­tantly un­fair to any­one whose life has been up­ended with crim­i­nal con­vic­tions for pos­ses­sion once pot is le­gal­ized. They must be par­doned.

Those con­cerned about an in­crease in youth smok­ing rates should re­mem­ber that those in the 12- to 18-year-old age group know where to find pot now, and they will know how to find it on the black mar­ket af­ter July 1, 2018.

The black mar­ket is not go­ing away af­ter that date, par­tic­u­larly in On­tario where Kath­leen Wynne is start­ing with 40 drab, gov­ern­ment-run out­lets for the en­tire prov­ince, even if there is an online op­tion. If you’re buy­ing pot from a trusted out­let now, it is highly un­likely you’re go­ing to make a lengthy so­journ to hit one of those stores on a Satur­day night to re­stock.

The choices youth make re­gard­ing mar­i­juana come from their teach­ings at home and school. Kids will per­ceive that there is less harm from this drug if it is le­gal.

In Colorado and Washington, a few years into le­gal­iza­tion, there has been no ex­plo­sion in youth us­age.

In Washington, for ex­am­ple, use is now down among 8th and 10th graders.

It is rare for a visit­ing of­fi­cial to come to Ot­tawa and crit­i­cize Canadian leg­is­la­tion, but Michael Hart­man of the Colorado Depart­ment of Rev­enue pointed out that his state of 5 mil­lion peo­ple is spend­ing $12 mil­lion on out­reach to youth about the dangers of mar­i­juana. Ot­tawa is spend­ing $9 mil­lion for a coun­try more than six times the size of the state.

That may be the les­son here for kids and mar­i­juana. Spend some real money to teach them.

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