Pot decisions downloaded to communities

It’s high time for federal laws

It’s high time for federal pot laws and it’s been high time for awhile now.

Canadians were probably anticipating the Liberal government to move more quickly on a campaign promise to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana. Finally, we’ve been told that pot will be legal by July 1, 2018.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to be something of a wild west for weed, and that’s created challenges.

Since the Liberals came to power in the fall of 2016, the expectation of legalization has brought about complications. Laws against dealing and possessing weed remain in place, alongside a scattered strategy of ignoring, regulating or raiding dispensaries, or an unpredictable combination of those approaches.

We’ve been dealing with a variety of different weed woes on Vancouver Island. Island Health decided it should be regulating edible pot as a foodstuff. The health authority is on the mark, but to carry out its intentions, it needs to try to enforce its regulations on unlicenced businesses dealing drugs in legal limbo.

There are at least six pot dispensaries in business in the Cowichan Valley. The ones operating in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are in areas where business licences are not mandatory and, to date, have had no police raids or problems with municipal officials. A number of dispensaries in North Cowichan have been visited by bylaw officers, and have been fined for operating without business licences.

However, they continue operations undeterred.

Most dispensaries are arguably already good neighbours – as long as we’re OK with shady dealings going on next door. A gentleman’s agreement has some appeal, except that it could be seen to legitimize these operations.

Community responses are being left to local governments, health authorities and police precisely because decision-making has been downloaded. It’s no wonder cities are handling things differently. It’s no wonder communities are experiencing the same sort of problems, and unique ones. It’s no wonder there’s confusion.

Between now and July 1, 2018, the federal government needs to keep Canadians in the legalization loop through every step of the process, as fully and completely as reasonably possible. It’s our communities that are being asked to cope with lawlessness, so we should be among the first to know what the laws will look like.