Have Your Say On Marijuana Legalization in Ontario

Ontario is asking residents for their feedback on the upcoming legalization of marijuana.

 

Have something to say about marijuana legalization? You’re in luck. The Ontario government is running an online survey on cannabis legalization in the province.

Residents have until July 31, 2017, to share feedback on how Ontario should approach the sale and regulation of marijuana in the province.

So what does the government want to know? And what could it mean? Today, we’re going to take a break from more complex legal stories and discuss they survey section-by-section.

Introductory Questions

The first three questions in the marijuana survey ask:

  • How familiar you are with legalization efforts;
  • How you feel about legalization; and
  • Whether you’ve ever used cannabis (and, if not, whether you plan on trying it once it’s legal).

The last question caught my attention. In addition to gauging the public’s interest and feelings on the issue, the survey could also be used to predict the demand for cannabis once it’s legal.

Minimum Age

Though the federal government’s Cannabis Act suggests people must be at least 18 years old to possess and purchase marijuana, provinces and territories can raise the age if they choose. This part of the survey asks:

  • How strongly you support setting the minimum age to 19; and
  • Which factors are most important when it comes to setting a minimum age: road safety, scientific evidence, preventing young people from buying cannabis illegally, or keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth.

Interestingly, the survey includes this tidbit of information:

“Health experts caution that cannabis may impact a person’s developing brain until the age of 25. At the same time, setting the minimum age too high could lead young people to continue relying on the illegal market.”

To me, this is a strong indication the Ontario government plans to set the minimum age to 19.

Location

Provinces and territories can decide where people are allowed to smoke, vape, or use cannabis in other ways. The survey notes there are already laws in place limiting where people can smoke or drink in Ontario, and asks:

  • Whether the government should restrict where people can use cannabis in public places;
  • Whether landlords should be allowed to restrict tenants and condo owners from smoking or vaping cannabis in units; and
  • Same as the above, but in common areas like rooftops and courtyards.

If you answer “yes” to the first question, you’re given the following options for no-cannabis-zones:

  • Areas around schools and child care
  • Places of worship
  • Areas around public buildings
  • Parks and patios
  • Sidewalks
  • Everywhere but private residences

We could see some overlap with landlord and tenant law here in Ontario. Smoking is already banned in indoor public spaces, such as common areas and foyers. Landlords can force a no-smoking clause on new tenants, but they cannot impose such a policy on existing tenants. However, landlords can move to evict a tenant if their smoking interferes with another tenant’s reasonable enjoyment.

Keeping Our Roads Safe

The survey outlines the new driving laws slated to come into force along with the Cannabis Act, and asks:

  • Whether you support the Ontario government putting stricter penalties in place for drug-impaired driving;
  • Which penalties we should consider, given “limits to the technology to test drug impairment”; and
  • What we should invest in to deal with drug-impaired driving (the options being technology for roadside cannabis testing, drug recognition training for police, more RIDE programs, or public education campaigns).

It was often said that this whole legalization business will never get off the ground until we can easily test for cannabis use at the roadside. That doesn’t seem to be the case. At this point in time, there is no reliable equivalent to the “breathalyzer” test for cannabis. To add to the confusion, THC doesn’t scale the way blood-alcohol content does, so that kind of test isn’t a reliable way of determining impairment.

With the fabled pot breathalyzer out of reach, that leaves us with three options: RIDE programs, police training, or public education campaigns. It’s likely we’ll see a combination of the three.

Sale of Cannabis

Who should be in the business of selling cannabis? The government, the private sector, or both? The survey doesn’t delve into the types of organizations that should be selling cannabis (pharmacies, gas stations, dispensaries, etc.), but it’s interesting to me that ‘private sector only’ is an option. Some people don’t want the LCBO sticking its nose in this business.

The survey also polls Ontarians on which health and safety measures they consider most important when it comes to selling cannabis:

  • Stopping underage and intoxicated people from buying
  • Secure storage
  • Staff training
  • Background checks on staff
  • Restrictions on where stores can be located
  • Hours of operation
  • Safety of the product
  • Packaging and health warnings
  • Restrictions on advertising

Personally, I can’t form an opinion on these issues until we know exactly who will be selling it in the first place.

Next up: more market research! The final part of this section asks you to rank factors that would influence your decision to purchase cannabis on a scale of one  (not important) to five (very important).

I was surprised to see online ordering and delivery on the list. It’s only recently the LCBO began home delivery, and the Beer Store is testing it out this summer. If the government does decide to roll cannabis into the offerings of the LCBO, we could see home delivery soon after legalization.

Public Education

In the months since the federal government announced legalization, I’ve heard more about public education than anything else surrounding this issue. The survey asks:

  • Which issues are most important when it comes to public education (health risks, impaired driving, etc.)
  • Who should be involved (police, schools, health experts)

Given that the big day is less than a year away, we’ll likely be seeing the fruits of these efforts very soon. The perceived success or failure of these education campaigns will likely have a big impact on how people perceive this issue. I, for one, look forward to seeing what they come up with.

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