Sports bodies as­sess is­sues sur­round­ing le­gal­ized pot

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY CHRIS COCHRANE

Those be­hind ma­jor sports in At­lantic Canada don’t want to be caught un­pre­pared when mar­i­juana is le­gal­ized later this month. As of Oct. 17, those 19 and over will be able to grow, buy and use recre­ational mar­i­juana, with some re­stric­tions. It will also be sold at govern­ment-sanc­tioned sites. Those un­der 19 who vi­o­late the new rules can face any of sev­eral po­ten­tial le­gal pun­ish­ments de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances and their age. The Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League (QMJHL) , the re­gion’s largest and most pop­u­lar league, is mak­ing a push to get ready for the new laws. The play­ers are al­most all teenagers and the fan base is dom­i­nated by young­sters. With Mar­itimes teams in Syd­ney, Hal­i­fax, Acadie-Bathurst, Monc­ton, Saint John and Char­lot­te­town, steps are be­ing taken to ex­pose young fans and play­ers in all those mar­kets to QMJHL mar­i­juana in­for­ma­tion pro­grams. “The Moose­heads and the en­tire CHL (Cana­dian Hockey League) have formed a part­ner­ship with Health Canada and will be rolling out an aware­ness cam­paign on our so­cial me­dia chan­nels through­out the sea­son,” said Scott Mac­In­tosh, Hal­i­fax Moose­heads man­ager of me­dia re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, of his team’s plans. “Hash­tag Fo­cuse­dOn (#fo­cuse­don) will be a se­ries of videos that the Moose­heads and other teams col­lab­o­rate on, to en­gage our ath­letes, along with par­ents and chil­dren, in dis­cus­sion to help youth un­der­stand the facts sur­round­ing the use of mar­i­juana and to en­cour­age them to make pos­i­tive and healthy life choices.” The Moose­heads will also work with lo­cal bil­let fam­i­lies who pro­vide win­ter homes for their play­ers. “Our fran­chise takes pride in be­ing a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence in our com­mu­nity and es­pe­cially with young chil­dren, so we plan to take the proper steps to make sure that con­tin­ues,” Mac­In­tosh said. The Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League (NBL), which has six teams in the At­lantic Prov­inces, starts its reg­u­lar sea­son in mid­Novem­ber. It, too, is talk­ing about how to han­dle the var­i­ous as­pects of the mar­i­juana is­sue. Deputy-com­mis­sioner Aud­ley Stephen­son said the NBL, staffed with adult pro­fes­sional play­ers, is aware of the need to have a pol­icy in place. That pol­icy will be a re­flec­tion of the league’s de­sire to have play­ers con­duct them­selves well in pub­lic, said Stephen­son. He doesn’t want play­ers to give a bad im­pres­sion to youth. “There’s been pre­lim­i­nary talk,” said Stephen­son of dis­cus­sion be­tween the league and in­di­vid­ual teams on strat­egy. Much of the con­ver­sa­tion has been around ath­letes be­ing in pub­lic schools and in the com­mu­nity. “We will have league stan­dards to ad­here to,” he said of the fran­chises in Syd­ney, Hal­i­fax, Char­lot­te­town, Monc­ton, Saint John and St. John’s. Other ju­nior hockey leagues in At­lantic Canada are pre­par­ing for le­gal­iza­tion, too. Among them is the Mar­itime Hockey League, one of the re­gion’s largest set­ups with teams in Yar­mouth, Amherst, Truro, Bridge­wa­ter, New Glas­gow, Ber­wick, St. Stephen, Grand Falls, Sum­mer­side, Ed­mund­ston, Camp­bell­ton and Mi­ramichi. Its ros­ters are mostly com­prised of play­ers in their late teens from across At­lantic Canada. Val­ley Wild­cats gen­eral man­ager Nick Gree­nough said han­dling the up­com­ing le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana cur­rently rests with in­di­vid­ual teams but he ex­pects a wider, league-co-or­di­nated re­sponse soon. He also ex­pects guid­ance from the na­tional ju­nior hockey body. “Teams will be look­ing at their poli­cies. It’s about ed­u­cat­ing. I think you’ll see a lot more in the schools. “It’s the same with al­co­hol,” Gree­nough said of why his club takes the mat­ter se­ri­ously and the work that must be done. How teams han­dle le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana will be sim­i­lar to how teams and league man­age­ment han­dle is­sues that arise from the mis­use of any stim­u­lant. “We don't want our kids go­ing to school or in the com­mu­nity (and have peo­ple) think­ing our hockey play­ers are a bunch of pot­heads,” said Gree­nough. The group that should have the eas­i­est time tran­si­tion­ing to the new laws is At­lantic Univer­sity Sport. The largest sport­ing group in the At­lantic Prov­inces, it over­sees var­sity sports pro­grams in­volv­ing 11 uni­ver­si­ties and more than 2,000 ath­letes. Those at AUS ex­pect no change un­der the new rules. Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Phil Cur­rie said the na­tional body, U Sports, op­er­ates un­der the guide­lines of the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Ethics in Sports (CCES). Un­der those guide­lines, mar­i­juana is al­ready a banned sub­stance for all of their ath­letes. In re­gards to le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, the CCES web­site reads: “Ath­letes sub­ject to the Cana­dian Anti-Dop­ing Pro­gram (CADP) must be aware that this does not af­fect the sta­tus of cannabis in sport. Cannabis con­tin­ues to be a pro­hib­ited sub­stance and a pos­i­tive test can still re­sult in a sanc­tion.” “The CCES de­ter­mines what's on their banned list,” Cur­rie said. “We haven't heard it's com­ing off their list. It’s sta­tus quo for our stu­dent-ath­letes.” Chris Cochrane is a former colum­nist for The Chron­i­cle Her­ald.

ERIC WYNNE

Scott Mac­In­tosh, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager with the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads, said the Moose­heads and the en­tire CHL have formed a part­ner­ship with Health Canada and will be rolling out an aware­ness cam­paign on so­cial me­dia chan­nels through­out the sea­son.

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