Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duces mar­i­juana leg­is­la­tion

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa

While it started as an elec­tions cam­paign prom­ise, last week the road to le­gal­iz­ing the use of mar­i­juana has be­come a lit­tle more con­crete.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced its bill to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana use. This would al­low Cana­di­ans to pos­sess up to 30 grams of mar­i­juana and sets the min­i­mum age at 18.

The pro­posed bill ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment is to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and to curb or­ga­nized crime prof­its. Sub­ject to Par­lia­men­tary ap­proval and Royal As­sent, the Gov­ern­ment of Canada in­tends to pro­vide reg­u­lated and re­stricted ac­cess to cannabis no later than July 2018. Ryan Sem­chuk has a pre­scrip­tion to use med­i­cal mar­i­juana, but has been fol­low­ing the de­bate closely and likes the ap­proach the gov­ern­ment has been tak­ing to make the changes.

“I agree with the way they have been ap­proach­ing it, to have it not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble through the black mar­ket is huge. The strate­gies they are tak­ing are the right steps,’ he said. “To me, to have it reg­u­lated, to have a safe, healthy sup­ply of a prod­uct that doesn’t re­ally have any neg­a­tive health ef­fect is a good thing. Then we are not deal­ing with fen­tanyl or other hard drugs on the street.”

MP Kevin Soren­son has some con­cerns, es­pe­cially about youth ac­cess. The gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions called for pro­hi­bi­tion un­der the age of 18, how­ever, the prov­ince will have the abil­ity to bump that to 21.

“There are still a lot of unan­swered ques­tions in re­gards to the health and safety of Cana­di­ans, I’m talk­ing about the use of mar­i­juana be­fore the age of 25, be­fore the brain is fully de­vel­oped, there are just a lot of ‘ifs’ yet,” he said.

Sem­chuk also does have some con­cerns about ac­cess for young peo­ple.

“I know that whether you are 18 or 21, you are go­ing to do what you are go­ing to do, but af­ter do­ing more re­search into growth and brain de­vel­op­ment I can see some con­cerns on the de­vel­op­ment side of these in­di­vid­u­als,” he said. “If I were to open a recre­ational re­tail space, I would make it 21 or older.”

A sec­ond bill was in­tro­duced to strengthen mea­sures to deal with im­paired driv­ing. Soren­son says this is a safety con­cern for all Cana­di­ans.

“There is no ad­e­quate test at the present time, like a breath­a­lyzer, that has a very quick road­side test to see if some­one is un­der the in­flu­ence of mar­i­juana,” said Soren­son. “In fair­ness to the Lib­er­als, they ac­knowl­edge some of that. But the an­swer they give is that ‘it’s a cam­paign prom­ise.’ That may be fine and dandy but un­til there are some an­swers for the health and safety of Cana­di­ans, I think they need to con­tinue to pro­ceed with cau­tion. I con­tinue to op­pose it.”

Sem­chuk also has con­cerns.

“The prob­lem with mar­i­juana is that it af­fects peo­ple so dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on the con­tent of THC, the type of ter­penes in mar­i­juana, de­pend­ing on your body size, there are so many vari­ables,” he said. “It is go­ing to be tough to mea­sure. My con­cern is there is a fair play­ing field there.” He says the gov­ern­ment has han­dled med­i­cal mar­i­juana well. “I am pretty im­pressed with the way the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been han­dling it, es­pe­cially from the med­i­cal side, re­gard­less of the neg­a­tiv­ity of the cur­rent sys­tem in place, I feel as a pa­tient, the sys­tem that is in place is very safe, ac­ces­si­ble and I think they are do­ing the right thing from a qual­ity stand­point.”

Come July 2018 Sem­chuk be­lieves there will be enough mar­i­juana to sup­ply the mar­ket.

“Health Canada is aware of that, as I watch the ap­proval process of new li­censed pro­duc­ers in Canada, Health Canada has about 30 or 40 more in the works as we sit. It is a model that con­sists of both large sale op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as medium and small op­por­tu­ni­ties to bal­ance it out so there is no dom­i­nance of one com­pany in the mar­ket,” he said.

Lo­cal lawyer Colin Kloot has spent many years as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Drumheller, and while he takes no po­si­tion on use of mar­i­juana, he rec­og­nizes that ex­ist­ing poli­cies do not work.

“I main­tain the war on drugs was lost a long time ago, es­pe­cially on mar­i­juana,” he said. “Reg­u­lat­ing mar­i­juana makes sense be­cause it is so com­mon­place, to keep mak­ing ca­sual use an of­fence is non­sen­si­cal.”

He says, how these changes will be im­ple­mented re­mains to be seen.

“Who knows how this is go­ing to pan out, there is a lot of ground­work to be done,” he said.

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