July 19, 2017
Lamont: Pallister Needs to Get Over his Reefer Madness
Winnipeg, MB - Dougald Lamont, who is running for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberal Party, says that Brian Pallister and the PCs need to quit stalling and get Manitoba ready for the federal legalization of marijuana July 1, 2018.
Lamont said that Pallister’s hand-wringing over safety and the supposed “pace of change” is not credible, since most other provinces are having no problems getting ready for the new marijuana legislation. Lamont pointed out that in 2013, the Harper Conservatives opened up Canada’s marijuana market with new licenses for companies to grow medical marijuana.
“While I don’t want to harsh Brian Pallister’s mellow, his denial and delays are not going to change the fact that marijuana will be legal across Canada on July 1, 2018,” said Lamont. “Manitoba needs effective legislation that will take marijuana off the black market, test it so it's safe, and control and regulate it so that criminals can't sell it and minors can’t buy it.”
Pallister needs a clearheaded approach to marijuana sales in Manitoba. If the PCs delay marijuana sales and regulation, Manitobans would still be able to drive to a neighbouring province, go online or access black market sources to buy it. A situation which is worse than it is now as marijuana would technically be legal in Manitoba, but uncontrolled and untaxed. Manitobans will be subject to all of the risks of marijuana legalization while reaping none of its benefits.
Lamont said Manitoba needs to regulate marijuana in ways similar to alcohol:
Set an age for which marijuana consumption is legal (above 18 or 19) and determine consequences for minors who breach the law
Establish licensing and labour conditions for sellers, and work with municipalities to establish zoning (away from schools)
Establish strict quality control and testing for different varieties to reliably display the doses of THC or cannibidol, and ensure it is free from dangerous contaminants
Set strict restrictions and labelling on products (edibles) so they can’t be mistaken for something a child might consume
Ensure products from sellers can only be sourced from licensed and approved legal producers
Determine levels of taxation
Create credible tests for impaired driving - some tests risk false positives and could result in false imprisonment
Lamont said there is a critical need to distinguish between and regulate the two major active ingredients in marijuana, THC and cannibidol, which have very different effects. THC is the ingredient which renders people intoxicated, or high, but cannibidol does not: it is used in some medications to treat nerve pain and has been successfully used to reduce symptoms of epilepsy, including in children.
Lamont also said that Pallister’s foot-dragging on the file risks a “Wild West” where Manitoba gets all of the risks but none of the benefits of legalization.
A 2015 report suggested that even before legalization, young people in Canada are some of the world’s heaviest users of marijuana. This is in part because of ease of access - it may be easier for high school students to buy unregulated marijuana than regulated alcohol. Because of the harsh criminal penalties associated with the drug, authorities and parents may be less likely to contact authorities. In Colorado, there was some evidence that youth marijuana use dropped after the drug was legalized.
Lamont said the other aspect is economic: Manitoba producers could be licensed to grow and exporting marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, and the taxes from the production and sale of marijuana could generate “sin tax” revenues for cash-strapped government and municipalities.
“Instead of making the most out of Federal Government policies that could help Manitoba, Brian Pallister keeps trying to undermine them,” said Lamont. “We should be working to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs to Manitobans, but the PCs seem intent on doing the opposite.”
Media Contact: 204-410-2200