Up In Smoke

One of the Liberal government’s signature campaign promises to come out of the last election was to legalize marijuana. In the last year, it has continued to be a hot topic and one that I am regularly asked about; having heard a wide array of perspectives from those for and against legalization.

Last week the government tabled legislation to end the prohibition on pot by July 1st, 2018, with two new bills; one on regulation of the recreational use, sale and cultivation of marijuana, and a second bill regarding impaired driving. It would allow people to possess up to 30 grams of dried or fresh cannabis and sets the minimum at 18 years of age.

The government has remained vague on their forthcoming plans. This lack of transparency only raises more concerns with how they intend to ensure our communities remain safe and the drug does not adversely affect young people. Provincial and municipal governments across Canada have further raised concerns over costs of implementation or lack of certainty over security measures.

My stance on the issue is based on both public safety and the associated health effects. Scientific evidence brought forward to the Trudeau Government has shown the many health risks, particularly on the developing brain.  The Liberals are proposing a minimum age of 18 years of age; despite the fact that even the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) has urged the government to restrict the quantity and potency of cannabis products that can be purchased by people aged 21 to 25. The CPA bases its position on the fact that the brain continues to mature until the mid-20s, and research suggests cannabis use interferes with brain development in a multitude of negative ways. The government’s disregard of this credible evidence is irresponsible.

I have heard from many landlords with valid concerns of how they can manage the proposal that would allow residents to grow up to four plants in their dwelling for personal consumption. Many landlords fear that the police will not be able to enforce the regulations limiting Canadians to four plants and a height of 100 centimetres. Concerns vary from smell; the cost of electricity; electrical and structural hazards, and fire risk; health problems arising from the presence of moulds and toxins that can contaminate a building including allergic reactions, toxic effects and infections.

Proposed legislation also fails to address some very worrisome areas regarding Canada-U.S. relations. It fails to ensure that recreational marijuana users will not risk their ability to work in and visit the United States. If asked if they have smoked marijuana, Canadians could face a ban entering the U.S. I find it troubling that the government failed to eliminate the preclearance questions, despite attending a state dinner where there was an opportunity for this discussion. Furthermore there is a lack of clarity on edibles, or foods that contain cannabis; uncertainty over where cannabis will be sold and the limitations on packaging; uncertainty over taxes or pricing; and the limited testing for THC available for drivers suspected of impaired driving.

I recently watched W5’s Kevin Newman’s report that studied the follow-up effects on the Colorado community after legalizing marijuana and it highlighted some interesting issues. One of which was the unexpected trickle-down effects from the dangers of edible products (marijuana-infused candies and chewables, drinks and chocolates) getting into the hands of children or young adults.

In June 2016, I had the opportunity to raise my concerns in the House. I encourage you to view my speech on the subject in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o47KHkU_QQU. I don’t believe that a recreational pot smoker should have the book thrown at him and have always argued that law enforcement should have the freedom to ticket at their discretion. This was the approach suggested by the Association of Chiefs of Police. I think this is fair and responsible, while ensuring that it provides parents and authority with a legal backbone when trying to discourage our young people from engaging in a potentially harmful activity.

This will continue to be a controversial topic and I will continue to bring forward constituents’ concerns on the matter.

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