Mayor’s Column – November 15, 2017

November 15, 2017

 

The prospect of legalized cannabis less than a year away leaves some people euphoric, if not high, and others uncertain. I am in the uncertain camp. With so many unanswered questions about legal cannabis, I just can’t be mellow. Up front I admit to having never used cannabis, voluntarily, that is, have no intention of ever using cannabis in a recreational capacity, and have no appetite for exposure to side-stream vapour of combusted cannabis. Having expressed my biases, I also confess that, with the exception of zoning regulations, I have little to no influence on the final decisions on how, where, when, or why it is used. This will relieve some readers and cause others no heartburn.

On October 26, 2017, the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) Board voted eleven recommendations to be sent to the appropriate ministries in the Provincial Government. These may give some of you angst but you’ll just have to put them in your pipe and smoke them. But maybe you shouldn’t light up until the Government acts. Perhaps none of them will be accepted; perhaps some; perhaps all. We are all in a state of uncertainty.

After considerable debate (much hot air but no smoke), in our wisdom the PRRD Board supported the following concepts: 1) the minimum age for a person buying, growing, or possessing cannabis should be 19; 2) there should be a province-wide limit of 15 grams for public possession of cannabis for a person of legal age, and of zero grams for under-age persons. (Yes, we believe in discrimination.)

And further: 3) restrictions now in place for public smoking should be applied to smoking cannabis but with an 8-meter buffer zone in the area of doors, open windows, and air intakes and that public smoking of cannabis anywhere children are likely to be present is to be prohibited; 4) until a safe level of blood THC has been established for driving, zero THC in the blood should be the limit.

There’s more: 5) personal cultivation of non-medical cannabis should be prohibited; 6) only the province of BC will be permitted to warehouse and distribute non-medical cannabis for sale in approved retail locations.

Did you think this should be the end? Not by a long drag: 7) to protect buyers from impure products and varying potencies with their potentially nefarious results, the BC Government should implement quality-control measures and product labelling regulations; 8) non-medical cannabis is to be available only from BC Government-approved locations and these locations will be recognized pharmacies.

And finally: 9) adjoining jurisdictions with authority (Provincial Governments) should attempt to harmonize age restrictions to avoid the inevitable cross-jurisdictional attempts to evade the law; 10) Provincial Governments, to the extent it is possible, should attempt to harmonize taxation and other regulations that would benefit from universal application; 11) because it is on the home front in our towns and pleasant rural settings, as well as at our rugged work sites, that the social impacts of non-medical use of cannabis will be felt, the Provincial Government must be prepared to come to the aid of local governments and other agencies as they deal with the still-unknown outcomes of the Federal Government’s determination to legalize cannabis.

These few words summarize the discussion and resolution of the PRRD Board (as interpreted by me) with respect to the pending legalization of cannabis (If you want the actual wording of the resolution, it is available in the minutes of the PRRD Board). It is possible that none of these ideas will see the light of day through the haze of uncertainty that now surrounds the topic. Nevertheless, we have done what we could to clarify our own thinking.

Oh, by the way, “we stand today on the edge of a new frontier … a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats … The frontier … is not a set of promises – it is a set of challenges” (JFK, July, 1960). Don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.

 

Merlin Nichols, Mayor