May 22nd, 2018

Slap-dash approach to pot legalization

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on December 1, 2017.

On Monday, Nov. 27, The Cannabis Act passed third reading. This was the last vote in the House of Commons before the legislation goes to the Senate for review and approval. The government’s plan is to have marijuana on the market for recreational use starting July 1, 2018.

I voted “no” to this legislation. Here’s why:

The Liberal government has been told by numerous authorities, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to slow down. There’s no reason the legislation needs to come into effect on July 1, 2018 and law enforcement agents have warned the government of the negative impact its rushed time frame will have on officers and the safety of Canadians.

During the committee’s study of the bill, it was reported that nearly 6,000 officers need to be trained and there is no way this will happen within the next seven months. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said in their testimony that the “CACP urges the Government of Canada to first consider extending the July 2018 commencement date to allow police services to obtain sufficient resources and proper training, both of which are critical to the successful implementation of the proposed >cannabis act.”

Ontario Provincial Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum testified that if the government moves forward with its arbitrary deadline, police will be about six to 12 months behind, thus creating a window of opportunity for organized crime to flourish.

But time isn’t the only concern. The cost to law enforcement agencies must also be considered. A large sum of money is required to train agents on how to properly enforce the new Criminal Code restrictions on recreational cannabis and to procure new equipment for testing and enforcement. This is a huge expense and the federal government isn’t willing to help.

It’s not just law enforcement agents who are upset about the short time frame. Provinces, territories, municipalities and aboriginal leaders have all spoken out against the brief window they’ve been given to prepare and the financial burden placed on them to create and enforce new laws and bylaws.

At the end of the day, the federal government sets the rules for legal possession and the mechanisms for licensing producers and regulating packaging. Provinces and municipalities must determine health and safety regulations, where and how recreational marijuana can be sold, and where it’s allowed to be used. Municipalities must also create new zoning laws to determine whether or not a store can be set up near a school or a halfway house; or if landlords are permitted to prohibit tenants from growing cannabis in rental units.

All of these necessary action items require time and money. Municipalities and provinces are reporting they don’t have either. Again, the message they’ve sent to the federal government is to slow down! What’s the rush?

If the federal government is willing to disregard the need for time and money, they should at least give weight to public safety concerns.

The recreational use of marijuana will be legal in seven months, but the roadside drug-testing methods currently available to police are insufficient. Agents are instructed to test for oral fluids, but this only proves the presence of the drug, not the concentration, thus making it impossible to know the level of impairment under which the operator is driving. What’s more, there’s no universally accepted limit for what constitutes impairment. Jurisdictions in the United States and Europe where marijuana has been legalized have different limits.

Lastly and most importantly, the Cannabis Act does nothing to protect children from accessing and using marijuana. In fact, it could be argued that the legislation facilitates easy access and use among youth.

Each household will be allowed to grow four marijuana plants. That’s enough to produce more than 3,100 joints. Who’s going to stop young people from growing a plant or two or stop them from accessing a plant in the home?

Anyone 18 years of age or older will be permitted to purchase recreational marijuana from a store. Every major medical association in Canada agrees that cannabis use has a negative impact on the brain development of those under the age of 25. There is growing evidence that its use is associated with mental health issues, including schizophrenia.

Furthermore, under the legislation, youth between 12 and 17 years of age will be able to carry up to five grams (approximately 10 joints) of marijuana without getting into trouble. They can be questioned as to how they acquired it, and the marijuana can be weighed, but the drug cannot be permanently seized.

The Liberal government promised to the put a “robust” education campaign in place to educate people about the potential harms of using marijuana, but action has yet to be taken and definitely won’t be put in place before recreational marijuana is legalized.

In short, many Canadians want the recreational use of marijuana to be legalized, but no one asked for a slap-dash approach to be taken. For a government that claims to take consultation seriously, I would expect them to listen to the sensible voices of police authorities, provincial, municipal and aboriginal leaders, medical experts and the Canadian public.

Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.

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9 Responses to “Slap-dash approach to pot legalization”

  1. snoutspot4 says:

    MP Harder asks us to listen to competent persons. I expect my MP to be scientifically literate. Is that too much to ask? MP Harder writes “There is growing evidence that its use is associated with mental health issues, including schizophrenia.”

    I expect my MP to understand that correlation does not equal causation. I note that she does not include the other side of that association (i.e., persons in adolescence who are experiencing the prodromal period of the development of schizophrenia who end up using cannabis).

    Clearly Ms. Harder represents herself, not all of her constituents. It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that MP Harder prefers to be an evangelical Reformer. I wonder if Ms. Harder has bothered to talk to scientists?

    In the end just another rant in service of the CPC. Rachael’s way or the Harder way. Take your pick.

  2. creator42 says:

    What’s the rush? It has been almost 50 years since the Le Dain Commission, 20 years since patients won the right to grow, purchase and possess medicinal cannabis, 15 years since the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, over 2 years since the LPC campaigned on a pledge to legally regulate cannabis, 1 year since the task force report and 6 months since Bill C-45 was tabled. How much time do the provinces need to set a minimum age, decide on a public, private or hybrid model and determine how far dispensaries should be from schools? Such regulations are not unprecedented.

    How many more tens of thousands of Canadians should we criminalize while we wait? How many more hundreds of millions should be spent enforcing cannabis laws? To what purpose? Criminal prohibition does not reduce the prevalence or popularity of cannabis, nor aid the police in protecting public safety.

    The police lack a roadside screening device and legally established blood concentrations for a medicine cabinet full of impairing drugs and OTC medications, including Marinol, the legal, synthetic THC pill. Given that cannabis was prohibited in 1923, became popular 50 years ago and that medicinal cannabis has been legal for 20 years, what have the police been waiting for?

    The good news is that cannabis is an economic substitute for alcohol, opiates and other more problematic and impairing drugs, such that when cannabis use goes up, drinking, other drug use and DUI accidents go down. Opiate overdose deaths, for example, have dropped about 25 per cent on average in states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. Alcohol sales are 20 percent lower in counties with medical cannabis.

    “youth between 12 and 17 years of age will be able to carry up to five grams”

    That is incorrect. Under C-45, youth 12-17 will no longer be criminalized for possessing up to 5 grams. The provinces are encouraged to treat the offense the same way they treat minors in possession of alcohol, to confiscate and impose non-criminal remedies such as fines, parental notification, counseling, etc. Most of the provinces have already defined these penalties.

    I would have expected Rachael Harder to have at least looked over the consultation submissions, read the task force report and reviewed the week of health committee hearings on Bill C-45 before voting against it.

  3. Pecker says:

    Good to see Rachael is holding up the conservative tradition of lying and misinformation. She knows that the reason 12 to 17 year old kids won’t be
    charged if caught with a small amount is so they don’t start their life with a criminal
    record. ” but the drug cannot be permanently seized.” She tries to make people
    believe the police will return the drugs to the kids which is just not true. If I was
    one who voted for her I would be very insulted by this. The conservative’s see
    their supporters as simple minded farmers who will believe what ever they say.

  4. petie150513 says:

    And in Alberta, UCP MLA Orr stated that Cannabis Legalization will lead to dire consequences – in the Alberta Provincial Legislature. Something about it provoking a Communist revolution in Canada. Who leads the UCP? Why the failed far-right CPC member, Harper sycophant, and a serial liar and fear-mongerer who thinks that someone making $250,000 a year is the middle class. I don’t know why anyone listens to these lying con artists. I did not vote for CPC MP Harder and I wretched when she won. Time to give her a rural riding and leave The City of Lethbridge alone.Rachael Harder everyone that doesn’t see things her way. I have no intention of voting for Kenney Cowboy in the upcoming provincial election either. Sick to death of watching my Canada be overrun by folks that are so out of touch with the way the world works. End the christian evangelical crusade against the Charter.

  5. HaroldP says:

    Thank you MP Rachael Harder for your representation in Parliament speaking for your constituents. I commend you for voting “No” regarding the legalization of marijuana. As the majority of my 37 year career was that as a Peace Officer with the Federal Government, I agree entirely with your rationale that this legislation is being fast tracked without the opportunity of enforcement agencies to properly and adequately prepare. It is commendable that you reference the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and their begging to delay the passing of the legislation so that they can best prepare for dealing with the issue(s) to properly police, enforce and work with the eventualities. The police have their hands full now, dealing with alcohol impaired drivers, who apparently don’t get the message that drinking and driving is not ok… least the police have the tools to detect alcohol impaired drivers and that their testimony and evidence often ends up in conviction of the impaired driver(s). It appears, from what the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are advocating, they will not be in a position to deal with/detect, possibly pot impaired drivers. This speaks volumes, and one can only imagine the resultant legal issues in enforcing, charging and receiving convictions for pot impaired drivers let alone other violations resulting from growing, distributing, using, possession of pot. I for one have never tried marijuana, however I have witnessed a plethora individuals under the influence, I know that many operate vehicles under pot influence now, I am concerned as to what is to come if our police are not fully prepared to deal with eventualities of the enactment of this legislation. MP Harder, please keep up your excellent work in the House, you have secured our support and our votes.

  6. creator42 says:

    “I know that many operate vehicles under pot influence now”

    Quite. Cannabis has been our most popular illicit drug for over 50 years. Medicinal cannabis has been legal for 20 years. The police also lack a roadside screening device for a myriad of impairing pharmaceuticals, OTC medications and Marinol, the legal synthetic THC pill. One has to wonder what the police have been waiting for.

    Cannabis usage rates rise and fall with no statistical relationship to cannabis laws and their enforcement, so there is no reason to fear an increase in usage rates or cannabis-impaired driving post-legalization.

    The law as it stands prohibits cannabis possession, not being high, so it behooves the stoned motorist to finish their entire stash before hitting the road. The CDSA does not deter cannabis use or driving while impaired by cannabis. The police in most provinces have the authority to suspend licenses and impound vehicles based on the mere suspicion of impairment.

    Bill C-45 is far from perfect, but it can be improved as we go along. Similarly, the police will never be happy, they will always ask for more money, time and “tools,” but they can improve as we go along. We are discussing regulating cannabis, not inventing it.

  7. Steve Bottrell says:

    As usual in Conservative land, lies and half truths rule the day. How long does it take police ( a Conservative organization by nature) to not arrest people for cannabis use? What exactly will the 6000 officers need training for? They have have had 2 years now to prepare. All this talk by conservatives to slow down is merely a ploy to give them more time to jockey for the money, and I assure you, the conservative hypocrites will be numerous. The roadside testing argument is nothing but a red herring. Cannabis impairment doesn’t really seem to be a problem concerning drivers. I can’t ever recall reading an accident report in the news that blamed the accident on a cannabis impaired driver. I can find one every day concerning booze. I could go on disputing every lie Ms. Harder states in her wail, but I can sum it all up in a few short sentences.
    This is nothing more than Harder guaranteeing her paychecks. Science be damned. Create a divide and ride it out, making sure the pay keeps coming. That’s all politics is. It’s always about the money. And the legalization of cannabis, legal or not, has always been about the money.

  8. biff says:

    some great replies here already – thanks, creator, s.bottrell., petie, peck, snout.
    harder gives us the same old bs and lies and propaganda. she cites one of the most recently overused and overrated studies – that pot causes psychosis; that it decimates the “developing” mind. the study all con artist opponents to legal pot cite has plenty of weakness, as is usual with anti-pot studies and info. here is one study that refutes the “evidence” that pot lowers iq in teen users

    …and here is info that cannabis does not harm the so-called developing brain (quotes used around developing because the brain is always developing, unless, perhaps, one is a simple conservative “thinker”, whereby it appears the brain may stop developing at around age 6)

  9. Resolute says:

    Thanks Rachel for your effort to communicate and lay out your views as our MP. Thanks also for those who posted civil responses. I am among those who see many unknowns and negative consequences to legalizing recreational pot use, both from a daily safety of life issue, an international border crossing problem. Much too important to rush.

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