EDITORIAL: Legal weed

When the smoke clears we will all have a better understanding about the details of the federal government’s new marijuana laws.

Right now, we know this about the proposed legislation, tabled in the House of Commons last week by the Liberal government:

• Adults 18 and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, share up to 30 grams with other adults, and buy cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer.

• Selling cannabis to a minor will become a specific offence, for the first time in the history of the Criminal Code.

• According to the Liberal government, there will be “severe penalties” for those who engage young people in cannabis-related offences, as well as a “zero-tolerance approach” to drug-impaired driving.

The questions we have relate to public use. Imagine hanging out at the waterfront in Port McNeill or Port Hardy, perhaps walking your dog or playing catch with your children.

Someone is sitting on a park bench, smoking a joint. Perhaps they aren’t even in the park, but nearby. The smoke and distinct aroma waft over the park.

Are you cool with that?

We asked our Member of Parliament, Rachel Blaney, about the legislation. But first, we asked her if she smokes pot.

“I’ve never had marijuana in my life,” she said.

We could have pressed her on that, asked for more detail, but decided if that’s how she wanted to answer, then fine. It’s not like we are in a presidenttial campaign south of the border and need to get into details about whether someone inhaled or not.

Blaney did raise some concerns about the situation. The delay in implementation — the new laws won’t likely be in effect for another 18 months — could mean the continuation of court proceedings that put a criminal record on people for possessing small amounts of cannabis. “These are all important things we need to talk about,” she said.

The MP is also looking for more details about the legislation. She was speaking to us just hours after it was tabled. “In a lot of our communities there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty,” said Blaney. “For me, I just want clarity.”

All in all, Blaney said she is in favour of new laws governing marijuana, calling them “long overdue.” She also believes it could bring in some munch-needed cash for federal programs.

“I do agree with the legislation,” she said. “I think we should control it and derive revenue from it and put that into health care.”

Perhaps there are many more important facets of the legislation, but we can’t help but go back to the social effects, the way the loosening of rules around marijuana use will affect our day-to-day lives on the North Island.

Will the rules be just like the ones around cigarette smoking? Will one be able to light up outside a pub or restaurant, or any business for that matter, as long as one is ‘X’ amount of feet away from a doorway?

Are we dumping more work on our police forces, especially when it comes to enforcing the drug-impaired driving laws? Are we putting muncipalities in difficult positions when it comes to business-licence approvals? It’s fine to pass federal laws, but small districts, towns and villages don’t exactly have a lot of staff to administer and police new laws. It seems the legislation has raised more questions than it has answered. Like our MP, we ask the federal government for some clarity. And we ask that the federal Liberals provide communities with the tools they need to deal with the new reality of legalized marijuana use.

— Editorial by John Harding

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