Pot plan raises questions
Local MP sees positives, but queries age requirement and enforcement
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | March 28, 2017|
If all goes according to plan, next year’s Canada Day celebrations in Haliburton County might include a special twist; legal marijuana.
The Liberal government will announce legislation during the week of April 10 that will largely follow recommendations outlined by a federally appointed task force in December, according to CBC News.
The task force was chaired by former liberal Justice Minister Anne McLellan.
Upon legalization, the possession of recreational amounts of marijuana would no longer result in a criminal record, something Jamie Schmale, MP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, fully supports.
“People have been arrested, faced possible punishment over a recreational amount and it’s ruined lives and jobs, so I do understand that side,” he said. “I’m also seeing report after report about courts being backed up and people not getting timely access to a legal trial.”
According to Statistics Canada, 58,938 marijuana possession cases made their way through adult criminal courts in Canada between 2008 and 2012.
Defendants were found guilty 43 per cent of the time. Other cases of drug possession involving cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines resulted in guilty charges more than 60 per cent of the time and were far less frequent.
County Warden Brent Devolin says the Liberal government’s announcement is no surprise.
“The plus side is the decriminalization,” he said. “We’ve seen lives and careers disrupted over small amounts [of marijuana].”
If legalization is successful, Ottawa will set a minimum age of 18 to buy marijuana and will license producers. Provinces will have the option of setting a higher age limit.
Schmale says he would like to see the age limit set at 25 across the country.
“Studies have shown young minds don’t stop developing until about the age of 25. I think a lot of the major decisions in life are made during those valuable years.”
Provinces will also have the ability to control sales and distribution.
The task force’s report included several points about selling and marketing marijuana. It suggested plain packaging with health warnings, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) amounts and strain names. Dedicated storefronts and direct mail sales were encouraged as well.
Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, wouldn’t comment on the announcement.
“We’re waiting to see the details of the federal government’s legislation before commenting,” Scott said.
If legislation reflects the task force’s final report, residents might be able to grow plants with a height limit of 100 cm. Public possession would be limited to 30 grams of dried, non-medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana would be accessed separately but will have the same tax system as non-medical uses.
Details about the legislation are scarce, but reports indicate that Canadians who want to grow their own marijuana will be limited to four plants per household.
That will be very difficult to enforce, says Devolin.
“That was one of the parts that, from an enforcement point of view, I have no idea how it will ever play out,” he said.
Devolin was also concerned about how it would affect Ontario building code regulations. While outdoor grow-ops exist, many turn to indoor hydroponic systems.
Schmale pointed to the Conservative government’s 2014 decision to overhaul the medical marijuana system, which forced production from patients' basements to large-scale commercial operations.
“We stopped that practice, specifically for medical marijuana use, because not everyone has proper electrical systems, some were dated,” he said, while also pointing to health concerns stemming from faulty ventilation systems.
“I see they [Liberal government] are bringing that back now, and I am concerned about that, especially if they are grown indoors.”
The possession and sale of cannabis for non-medical purposes is still illegal everywhere in Canada.
Storefront dispensaries are not licensed by Health Canada under the current law and are illegal, according to the Canadian Department of Justice.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.