Ottawa released a suite of bills in the House of Commons Thursday that will ultimately result in the legalization of recreational marijuana by the summer of 2018, and local MP Stephen Fuhr is optimistic that by that time all constituents will be on board with the plan.
“There is some opposition in this riding and that comes from preconceptions, as opposed to looking at data,” said Fuhr, adding that the majority of Central Okanagan residents he’s spoken with support pot legalization, though he doesn’t discount the fears of those who don’t.
“These laws have been well thought through, and this is actually the best way to move forward to keep this substance out of the hands of kids.”
Prohibition has yet to get pot out of the hands of children, say those who have shaped the bills. Twenty-one per cent of youth and 30 per cent of young adults in Canada use cannabis, which are some of the highest rates in the world.
Regulation will allow only those 18 and older to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, share up to 30 grams with other adults, and buy cannabis or cannabis oil from a provincially regulated retailer, according to the plan.
Selling cannabis to a minor will become a specific offence, for the first time in the history of the Criminal Code.
The Liberals also say there will be “severe penalties” for those who engage young people in cannabis-related offences and they intend to take a “zero-tolerance approach” to drug-impaired driving.
For those in this riding who have lingering questions and concerns about pot legalization, Fuhr intends to bring MP Bill Blair to the valley to offer clarity.
The ex-Toronto police chief who was tasked with shaping the legislation has already been travelling around Canada to discuss the federal government’s plan to legalize and regulate the drug for recreational use. If he makes a stop in the Okanagan, Fuhr thinks it will be this summer.
“He is the guy that will speak to this the best, he’s been involved with this file and his opinion matters,” said Fuhr.
Blair has repeatedly spoken to the benefits in dealing with a criminal element by regulating production, distribution and consumption.
Fuhr said there will be a lot of work to do before implementation, but he’s looking forward to getting it done.
“I’m glad we are moving forward and it’s definitely happening,” he said.
The deadline of next summer, he said, will give MPs and others time to weigh in and affect change before anything is finalized.
“That’s the plan, anyway,” he said. “At the end of the day, we don’t have complete control of the legislative process…we can make sure it goes as quickly as it can.”