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Canada not ready for marijuana legalization: Brassard

'The federal government has been extremely flippant in not resolving those issues,' says Barrie-Innisfil MP
Dan Toulgoet/photo

With only two days until recreational marijuana use becomes legal across Canada, Conservative MP John Brassard says we’re in no way prepared for it.

“On many levels, the government is not ready for the rollout of this,” Brassard told BarrieToday when reached Monday afternoon in Ottawa. “The tools and resources just aren’t in place.”

Marijuana use will be legal on Wednesday and will be handled similar to how alcohol consumption is regulated, including specific locations where it can be bought (currently it will only be available online) and strict rules on where it can be smoked. 

Brassard cited several areas of concern, including border crossings, supply and demand under the new regulated system, enforcing the laws around drug-impaired driving as well as the effects on the health-care system with more emergency-room visits.

There’s also confusion in the workplace about what’s permitted, worker/employer rights, municipal bylaws, etc., the MP added. 

“Those are issues that should have been addressed before this drop-dead date of Oct. 17,” Brassard said. “I’m not making this stuff up; this is what we’re hearing from people right across the country.”

Brassard says the Liberals have been sloughing off any notion of concern.

“The federal government has been extremely flippant in not resolving those issues,” he said. “They say that they’re ready, but the fact is, when you talk to people in law enforcement or at the grassroots level, nobody is prepared for this.”

While blood-alcohol levels are measurable, questions have been raised around roadside screening devices for quantifying marijuana intoxication, including how reliable they are under extremely cold temperatures. That calls into question their admissibility in court.

Brassard says he believes police across the country are just doing the best they can to be prepared come Wednesday.

“They’re trying to be ready, but there are concerns around enforcement tools and the legitimacy of those tools and techniques,” said Brassard, adding police “are clearly not ready. I’m not just hearing that anecdotally. My neighbour came up to me the other day after a training session and came out of it even more confused and with their head spinning.”

Barrie police weren’t available for comment on Monday to talk about the impending legalization of marijuana.

Brassard said it’s his understanding that drug-impaired driving will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. He says defence lawyers “are going to be wringing their hands in glee” at the prospect of dealing with each case individually as charges slowly progress through the justice system.

Brassard says he doesn’t think there will be panic in the streets this week, however.

“Look, I know the sky is not going to fall,” he said. “It’s not going to come crumbling down on Wednesday when legalization takes place, but there’s a lot of things that need to be addressed before legalization does happen on Wednesday that haven’t been addressed.”

The original legalization date was supposed to be July 1, but was pushed back when municipalities raised concerns.

“They’ve had almost three months now to address some of the issues that are being brought up as areas of concern across the country, not just within municipalities but the provinces,” he added.

Brassard says the federal Liberals already has a built-in safety valve when it comes to possible blame, because much of the regulation has been placed on the provinces.

“If things do wrong, it will probably cause the government to blame the provinces as opposed to accepting responsibility for what does go wrong, whatever it is,” he said.

The Ontario Cannabis Store website is now live and, come Wednesday, you can visit and purchase recreational cannabis and its non-intoxicating cousin, CBD oil. Canada Post will bring your dope, up to 30 grams, right to your front door. 

The independently owned and operated bricks-and-mortar retail pot shops will follow beginning next April in municipalities that allow them.

Brassard says his biggest concern is border crossings into the United States where the plant is still illegal in most states.

And with supply and demand, Brassard says he doesn’t see marijuana legalization eliminating the black market.  

“If you can’t go to a government dispensary, there’s still the guy down the street that’s selling it,” he said. “If the government’s stated policy is to keep it out of the hands of young people and to stop the black market, well, they’re clearly failing on not being able to stop that black market.”

Brassard also doesn’t believe the legalization of marijuana is going to eliminate street-level dealers anytime soon.

“We’re going to see on Wednesday there’s going to be a serious supply issue,” he added. “That means the black market is not going to go away and will further entrench itself.”

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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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