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EDITORIAL: Already written?

Premier Wade MacLauchlan
Premier Wade MacLauchlan

While it’s a good idea for the Prince Edward Island government to seek public input on plans to legalize marijuana, the broad strokes of any such legislation are very likely already written.

Last week, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said his government is seeking Islanders’ thoughts on what cannabis legislation should look like, an engagement process that’s long overdue since Ottawa tabled its intentions in early April to legalize and regulate cannabis by July 1, 2018.
Legalization is a federal decision but many of the rules and regulations fall under provincial responsibility so the 10 provinces are scrambling to deal with Ottawa’s proposals. Most complain the narrow window won't allow enough time to get proper public health, safety and education guidelines in place.
The provinces have been willing to accept the costs associated with legalization because they feel that tax revenues will become a major cash windfall.
In Atlantic Canada, it’s essential there are uniform rules and regulations to streamline enforcement so it’s surprising the premiers have not been more co-operative. The premiers had no problem harmonizing their HST rates, so what kept them from agreeing to common legislation on marijuana when regional enforcement is so critical?
Newfoundland and Labrador was first off the mark and last week a New Brunswick legislature committee brought in its report. Now P.E.I. is seeking public input leading towards legislation in the spring.
Marijuana will be subject to the same rigid restrictions as both alcohol and tobacco. Booze is unacceptable any where near the workplace and smoking is banned from public areas. So marijuana will be largely limited to one’s property or residence. Impaired driving by drugs will be subject to the same stringent enforcement as alcohol.
The P.E.I. government wants to ensure that cannabis legalization keeps drugs away from young people, protects public health, and promotes safety on our roads, in workplaces and in public spaces. Those issues have already been dealt with in two other Atlantic provinces. A joint committee under the Council of Atlantic Premiers might have achieved common regulations and proposals.
The N.B. committee is recommending the province sell marijuana through government-operated stores to anyone 19 years or older- thus harmonizing it with alcohol and tobacco. Government stores offers the best compromise to restrict youth access to recreational cannabis and ensure prices can compete with the illegal market.
N.B. is really pushing the cannabis envelope. Marijuana production is touted as a pillar of its economic strategy; the government has worked to lure producers to the province; and has developed a community college program for cannabis technicians.
Premier MacLauchlan might not be quite so liberal-minded but he accepts the fact that marijuana is in wide use. And he notes that legislation could certainly change as conditions warrant. Prohibition ended 70 years ago but the rules involving alcohol are amended almost yearly.
Legalization is coming and its best we deal with it rationally. And who knows, perhaps we’ll see a P.E.I. Liquor, Tobacco and Marijuana Commission in place next spring?

 


 

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