According to Mayor Ross Forrest, Lake Cowichan’s residents need a chance to talk with council about changes in cannabis legislation. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)

Time to ask Lake Cowichan what they think of cannabis: Forrest

Do Lake Cowichan residents want to welcome legalized cannabis to town? It’s time to ask

There’s a lot to think about as Canada legalizes cannabis, Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest told his colleagues March 27.

First, town council must take the temperature of the community, by holding public meetings to hear what local residents want and don’t want after pot becomes legal.

After attending a mayors’ conference recently, Forrest discovered that Bill C45 and C46, federal bills that cover the legalization and the regulations of cannabis in Canada, “could well be delayed until past July 2018.”

There’s been a lot of discussion about which level of government has which responsibility in what is a complicated new world, according to the mayor.

“The federal legislation will establish minimum conditions for distribution and retail sales, minimum age for the purchase, possession, and consumption, restrictions, personal cultivation and personal possession limits, and criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal system.”

But that’s not all. The feds will also “establish a national cannabis tracking system, regulate product standards, labelling, packaging and the promotion and display of cannabis and cannabis accessories, license producers, regulate edibles and, within 12 months of Bill C45 coming into force.”

What might so far seem a nebulous discussion to many is now acquiring a pointy end.

“Bill C46 will significantly amend the Criminal Code for impaired driving offences, create new offences for having specified levels of drugs in the blood within two hours of driving to be set by regulations and provide regulatory authority to provide roadside oral screening devices,” Forrest said.

Provinces will have to “prioritize health and safety, reduce crime, and illegal markets, protect children and youth, address cannabis impaired driving, and support economic development.”

So far, there’s been more interest in cannabis legalization in B.C. than in any other province, Forrest said.

“In the fall of 2017, public engagement on the subject saw 48,151 online responses, 800 random telephone survey responses, and over 140 written submissions.”

Key provincial decisions include:

• B.C.’s minimum age to possess, purchase, and consume cannabis will be 19

• Adults will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place

• Those under the legal age of 19 will be prohibited from possessing any amount of non-medical cannabis

• Cannabis transported in a motor vehicle will need to be in a sealed package or inaccessible to vehicle occupants

• Cannabis smoking and vaping will generally be allowed in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted

• Cannabis smoking and vaping will be banned in areas where children gather, including community beaches, parks, and playgrounds.

• Cannabis consumption will be prohibited while riding in or operating a vehicle.

• B.C. will allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household. Plants must not be visible from any public place off the property.

• Home cultivation will be banned in homes used as daycares and landlords and strata councils will be able to restrict or prohibit home cultivation at tenanted and strata properties.

• Cannabis cannot be sold in the same stores as liquor or tobacco. Exceptions will be established for non-medical cannabis retail stores in rural areas.

• Municipalities, landlords, and strata councils will also be given certain powers of restriction or prohibition.

And, Forrest explained, there’s more to come.

“Additional considerations on cannabis will include but not be limited to the following: agricultural land reserve, revenue sharing, economic development, supply management, equitable offences, cannabis industry training, workplace considerations, environmental impact, housing considerations, Canadian Free Trade Agreement, public awareness and education regulatory capture prevention, school based education, hemp regulation, data collection, long term governance oversight, and taxation and pricing.”

B.C. mayors unanimously voted to support UBCM’s Four Principles for Cannabis Legalization, he said.

• Cannabis legalization should not result in additional local government funding by property taxpayers.

• Local governments should be reimbursed for costs associated with implementation of legalized cannabis.

• Local governments should be reimbursed for any additional policing costs resulting from cannabis legalization.

• Remaining excise tax revenue after taking out reimbursement for the previous three principles and the federal share should be shared between the province of B.C. and local governments.

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