Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/6/2017 (1426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Some Manitobans might not like it, but at least this province now knows where it stands with its request for an extension of the date when marijuana will be legalized. There will be no extension. Ready or not, Manitobans — like all Canadians — can legally light up on July 1, 2018.
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen spoke out this week after returning from a two-day summit of his provincial and federal colleagues, frustrated that his request for a deadline extension was denied by federal finance minister Bill Morneau.
Mr. Friesen’s pitch for an extension was understandable, even admirable, in motivation. It’s the province and the city that get stuck with implementing the federal Liberals’ campaign promise to legalize pot. The legal, health and social issues surrounding a recreational drug with narcotic properties are complex and important. Manitoba can’t be blamed for wanting more time. As Mr. Friesen has repeatedly said on this issue, "We only get one chance to do this right."
Here is a sample of issues the province and city now face: will marijuana be sold in government liquor stores, or in stand-alone dispensaries? Will bars and other licenced premises such as Bell MTS Place and Investors Group Field be able to sell edible marijuana? Where will Manitoba sellers get their product wholesale? Will marijuana sellers be able to advertise their product to encourage consumption, or will it be sold such as tobacco, out of sight in stores? How will the price be set and how will it be taxed? After the product is legal and backyard gardeners can grow their own, how will the authorities police black-market sales? How will police test drivers for drugged driving in a way that’s reliable enough to stand up in court? What will be the legal age limit for buying marijuana, given the medical research that shows marijuana can permanently damage teenage brains that are not yet fully developed?
Providing sound solutions to this blitz of important issues is nothing the Pallister government asked for, yet, unfortunately, they have no choice. There is no wiggle room on the deadline. That was made abundantly clear when the federal government told Mr. Friesen it’s prepared to roll out mail-order marijuana if Manitoba can’t update its laws in time.
Faced with an intimidatingly large to-do list on this file, the province can take consolation on two fronts.
First, Manitoba isn’t alone. In the U.S., seven states and the District of Columbia have in recent years adopted expansive laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use; Manitoba can learn from their extensive research and experience.
Other Canadian provinces are also trying to cope with the fallout from the federal decision to legalize it and perhaps it would be prudent for Manitoba to work with other provinces, especially neighbours Saskatchewan and Ontario, to ensure harmony in some areas, such as taxation.
Second, Manitoba should recognize that its measures governing the brave new world of legalized marijuana can evolve after deadline. Nothing will be set in stone on July 1, 2018. The legal controls and social use of other controlled substances often change. Remember when tobacco smoking was allowed in public places, including on airplanes? Remember how, prior to 1975, Manitoba women were not allowed to sell and serve alcohol?
Marijuana users say the drug provides them a feeling of relaxation. It’s a sure bet that, for the provincial government, the issue of marijuana is anything but relaxing. But it’s important to realize Manitoba can adopt best practices from other jurisdictions to meet the deadline and, as the years go on, fine tune the measures to meet Manitoba’s specific needs.
A prominent anti-drug advertising campaign used to urge young people to "just say no." Unfortunately for the Pallister government, as it implements another level of government’s legalization promise, just saying no isn’t an option.