May 24th, 2018

Ramifications of legal marijuana remain cloudy

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on April 20, 2017.

Today is April 20, or 4/20 for short, the day marijuana activists use for protest, public displays of defiance and a call to action to legalize pot.

The times are certainly about to change as Ottawa and the provinces consider the implications of the Liberal government’s plan to make marijuana legal.

Concerns about decriminalizing pot, however, have many recreational smokers increasingly leery about receiving what they wished for.

Those are the people who should benefit most from the bill, which is posed as a measure to avoid criminal records and fines for possession of the drug that is extremely common, if one is being honest.

The marijuana discussion is still a difficult one, reporters with the News discovered this week, as they tried to get recreational users to go on the record with their opinions.

Many of these gainfully employed, productive people fear a new system that they say will lay down harsh penalties to create a retail system for a drug that is not very hard to get as is.

Pattie Vivier, the owner of Hemptown Rock, which sells paraphernalia in Medicine Hat, summed up the situation as pure disillusionment in the pot-community.

“Governments are all about money,” she said, citing taxation, distribution, licensing — all of which are still to be worked out in talks between the provinces and Ottawa.

“It’s a money maker, and the joke now is that we have Justin Harper as prime minister.”

The punchline is a combination of law-and-order former prime minister with the seeming hipness of the current one.

Marijuana smokers are not laughing.

Also due are new murky driving laws and harsh sentences for breaking age restrictions.

Medicine Hat police chief Andy McGrogan is right when he said this month that the devils are in the details of legalization.

The logistics of the drug, which stays in one’s blood system for much longer than alcohol, requires a different sobriety test. A saliva test is a stand-in for a breathalyzer, and there’s some question whether a joint smoked on a Saturday night, would show up at a checkstop later that week.

What’s the just cause for a new saliva test? It’s likely at the officer’s discretion and pot smokers are a generally mistrustful bunch.

Providing marijuana to a minor could result in a maximum prison term of 14 years, the same sentence available for a judge to give child pornographers or those who commit aggravated assault against a police officer.

Objections to legalization are well-known and oft-repeated, and concerns about drug abuse are well-founded.

The country is in the grips of an opioid epidemic that has killed thousands. Methamphetamine and other drugs are a scourge that brings with it violence and property crime.

The marijuana conversation involves a lot of baggage.

This is a drug that have been prohibited in Canada since 1930, but only recently became a topic of discussion for medical use.

Over the same time, much stronger narcotics have been routinely used for pain relief.

One News reporter tells the story of a cocaine-soaked cottonball being employed before a broken nose was reset by an emergency room doctor.

Anti-drug advocates have said pot is a gateway drug leading to harder drugs, crime and criminal lifestyle.

It’s too easy to believe some claims that marijuana proponents that the substance is not harmful, or some sort of wonder substance.

But it’s hard to argue, like many smokers do, that it’s certainly not as harmful as other intoxicants.

A glass of wine won’t ruin a person’s life or destroy a family, they say, but alcoholism will.

At this time, it’s still an ongoing discussion.

(Collin Gallant is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to

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