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EDITORIAL: A memorable Oct. 17, 2018

Patrons began lining up at the P.E.I. Cannabis retail store in Charlottetown at 6 a.m. today. Today is the first day cannabis became legalized in Canada.
Patrons began lining up at the P.E.I. Cannabis retail store in Charlottetown at 6 a.m. Oct. 17 - the first day cannabis became legalized in Canada. - Josh Lewis

We’ll come to consider marijuana in much the same way we view alcohol – to be used carefully, in moderation, enjoyed communally, avoided at work, and never consumed while driving.

It’s been described as a non-event. And really, if the product is consumed responsibly, is it really much different from enjoying a glass of wine? In a year or so, that might be an accurate assessment, but not on October 17, 2018.

Because today is a memorable date for Islanders – both for those in favour and others opposed to the legalization of marijuana. Two-thirds of the population is in favour, although far fewer plan to consume the drug on any kind of regular basis, if at all. It’s simply satisfying to see overdue, liberalization of laws concerning cannabis - and end stigmatizing so many Canadians with a criminal record for simply smoking a joint.

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Government hopes to keep marijuana away from criminals; and that revenue windfalls flow into public coffers. Those are good intentions but the road to hell is paved with them.

Some Islanders remember the end of prohibition 70 years ago. Most were probably excited to see the half-century ban on alcohol finally repealed here in 1948. A strong minority was likely opposed and wondered if the nation – fresh from victory in the Second World War - was taking a disastrous step backwards.

Over the past weeks, the legalization date became a focal point of comment and conversation across the province and country. While medical marijuana has been legal for some years now – prescribed by P.E.I. doctors - to relieve pain and treat other medical issues, today, most Islanders can finally legally purchase and consume marijuana.

Are we ready for today’s historic event? Probably not.

Police face the greatest challenges with enforcement issues. Equipment to detect and test cannabis impairment is still being rolled out and perfected. Staff at government-operated cannabis stores will experience growing pains. Will there be line-ups and a rush through the doors, or an eerie quiet? Will there enough product to satisfy the demand? Those seeking discretion can order online or grow their own plants. Isn’t it great to have options?

Parents, many of whom support this law, will have lingering doubts and wonder how to discuss the topic with their children. School officials and teachers are in much the same situation, despite various information sessions. Governments are understandably nervous, even though the date was pushed back to smooth out any wrinkles.

Many questions remain unanswered. But they will be addressed. Gradually, over the coming days and weeks and months, omissions will be corrected and laws amended. We’ll come to consider marijuana in much the same way we view alcohol – to be used carefully, in moderation, enjoyed communally, avoided at work, and never consumed while driving.

There will doubtless be more access to marijuana through additional locations across the province; there will likely be special “bars” for the public consumption of marijuana in all its forms. It will be a learning curve. There’s no rush; it’s best to act carefully and cautiously.

And eventually, when doors open at cannabis stores, it will be a non-event. And we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. But not today.

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