B.C. VIEWS: This is your province on weed

Marijuana is touted as a miracle drug in an unregulated market, with liquor stores touted for recreational sales

With unlicensed marijuana dispensaries popping up in urban areas and thousands of unregulated medical licences for home growing still in legal limbo, the Trudeau government is starting work on its promise to legalize recreational use.

Marijuana was a media darling in the recent election, but meeting in Vancouver with provincial ministers last week, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott found herself preoccupied with issues deemed more urgent.

These include shifting our post-war acute hospital model to community primary care, tackling aboriginal health care needs, pooling pharmaceutical purchases to slow rising costs, and meeting an urgent Supreme Court of Canada directive to legalize assisted dying.

At the closing news conference in Vancouver, Philpott was asked how recreational marijuana should be sold. Licensed medical growers want exclusive rights do it by mail as permitted by the Harper government, another measure forced by our high court. That would shut out the rash of supposedly medical storefronts, which city halls in Vancouver and elsewhere imagine they can regulate.

Philpott said the question is “premature” and federal-provincial justice ministers were dealing with it at their meeting. Ottawa will have a “task force” too.

Vancouver descended into a pot store free-for-all due to benign neglect from council and police, and Victoria isn’t far behind. Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, a rare voice of reason in the Big Smoke, has protested dispensaries using street hawkers to attract young buyers, and pot stores setting up near schools.

Other communities, more aware of their limitations, have resisted issuing business licences. One recent proposal in the Victoria suburb of View Royal came from a fellow who insisted marijuana extract had cured his cancer. This is typical of claims that proliferate on the Internet, and is one of many warning signs about dispensaries that put up red cross signs to sell pot products with exotic names.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake was more forthcoming a few days earlier, responding to a Vancouver reporter who judged marijuana more interesting than his just-announced plan to hire 1,600 more nurses by the end of March.

Lake noted that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is keen to sell marijuana through the province’s monopoly liquor stores. B.C.’s government liquor store union has also endorsed this idea, forming an unlikely alliance with non-union private stores to get in on the action.

“There are public health officials that I’ve talked to who say that the co-location of marijuana and liquor sales is not advisable from a public health perspective,” Lake said. “I think whatever we do it has to be highly regulated, quality control has to be excellent and above all we must protect young people.”

Yes, liquor stores check ID. But the notion that marijuana might be sold next to beer and vodka in government stores deserves sober second thought, and serious scientific work of the kind that has shown damage to developing brains from teenage marijuana use.

Of course all of this urban hand-wringing over pot stores ignores the de facto legalization that has existed across B.C. for decades.

The Nelson Star had a funny story last week about a local woman’s discovery on Google Earth. Zooming in on area mountains, one finds not only the Purcell landmark Loki Peak, but also Weed Peak, Grow Op Peak, Cannabis Peak and Hydroponic Peak.

Whatever the source of this cyber-prank, it could also be applied to other regions of B.C.

For the record, I’ll restate my long-standing position that legalization is the only logical answer. I’ll say the same about other drugs that drive most B.C. crime, but that’s a subject for another day.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Friends of ‘Mac’ rally to fund young family left behind by former martial arts teacher in Surrey

‘He’s well loved,’ says operator of Fraser Heights academy where Mackenzie MacWilliams studied, worked

Surrey burglar loses appeal on Hook & Ladder break-in conviction

The case centred on a Jan. 3, 2016 break-in at the Newton pub

Police food drive to help feed North Delta kids

Donations collected will go support the Rotary Club’s Starfish Pack program

Bus driver assault in Vancouver once again raises safety concerns

A 49-year-old Surrey man was released on a promise to appear in court. No charge has been laid

‘Inventive ideas’ sought soon for Surrey One Act Festival, set to return to Whalley stage

Also planned by Royal Canadian Theatre Company is a Five Minute Play Writing Challenge

VIDEO: Killer whales hunt for seals in Vancouver harbour

Bigg’s killer whales feed on marine mammals like seals, sea lions, dolphins and even other whales

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Woman, 60, charged in connection to thefts at YVR

RCMP believe the foreign national is part of a larger organized theft group

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Worst 10 bus routes in Metro Vancouver for rider complaints

TransLink releases list, with Route 319 at the top

VIDEO: Highway One to be widened east to 264th Street in Fraser Valley

The $235 million project includes upgrades to overpasses and a rail bridge

Most Read