Opposing sides concerned Trudeau failing Canadians with new pot laws

A medical marijuana user and a Tory MP agree on one thing when it comes to the federal government's legislation to legalize marijuana: The Liberals haven't fully thought it through.

Medical marijuana user, Tory MP say federal government haven’t thought through new legislation

A woman exhales while smoking a joint during the annual 420 marijuana rally on Parliament hill on April 20, 2016 in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

A medical marijuana user and a Conservative MP are both concerned the federal Liberal government hasn't put enough thought into its new legislation to legalize marijuana.

Peter Thurley of Kitchener relies on medical marijuana to manage his pain. He is also a member of the Cannabis Patient Advisory Board at Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

He's concerned little thought has been given to people who use it medicinally.

"I think for me the biggest concern [with the legislation] is the extent to which it creates the impression that cannabis is all and only a public health hazard," Thurley told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday.

Making cannabis legal was a major Liberal election promise during the 2015 campaign.

Thurley said the Cannabis Act has many regulations for how pot can be sold and may even restrict access, instead of making it more readily available.

"They just want to get an election promise fulfilled," Thurley said.

Medical marijuana user Peter Thurley is concerned new rules for pot distribution could actually limit access to cannabis. (Associated Press)

Feds 'ignoring scientific evidence'

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht said he hasn't heard from any parents or grandparents who want marijuana legalized.

"I don't think it's any secret that I'm not excited about it. I'm opposed to it," he said. "The unfortunate part of the message that's being given here is that the use of marijuana is, in my opinion, it's being normalized."

He said the Canadian Medical Association is against legalizing pot and has suggested the minimum age to purchase it should be 21. The federal government has set the age at 18; however, provinces are able to change the minimum age.

"Here we have a government that's ignoring scientific evidence," Albrecht said.

Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott addressed concerns about young people using pot during an interview on CBC's Power and Politics April 13. She said current laws have not prevented youth from using marijuana.

"The prohibition approach has not deterred young adults from using this product. The current approach is not working," she said. 

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould added they have suggested allowing youth between the ages of 12-18 to carry up to five grams, but there's nothing that gives them legal access to it.

"Young people can't buy it, they can't grow it," she said. "We wanted to find some balance. We did not want to criminalize young people that will have an impact on their future,"

Albrecht said he is also against legalizing pot because people use the drug for a very specific reason.

"You can have a glass a wine, not for the purpose of becoming intoxicated. But when you're using pot, you're trying to get high," he said, and instead supports a Conservative plan that would make carrying small amounts of pot a ticketable offence.

The difference between pot and alcohol, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht says, is that you can have a glass of wine without intending to get drunk. "When you’re using pot, you’re trying to get high," he says. (Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Start lobbying provinces

Thurley noted much of how pot distribution will be rolled out will be up to the provinces, so he encourages patients who rely on medical marijuana to talk to their MPPs about what they want to see.

"The federal government has given complete latitude to the provinces in terms of determining age, in terms of determining potency, in terms of determining all of that kind of stuff that is ultimately important for access and affordability," he said.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Philpott said the federal government will work with the provinces and territories as this legislation moves forward.

"We recognize there's more to do," Philpott said.

For Albrecht, he said his role now will be pointing out problems in the bill, first during second reading and then at the committee level.

That includes concerns he's heard from police officers that they lack the ability to accurately measure how intoxicated a person is after using marijuana.

He said he hopes the Conservatives will be able to get some things changed before the Liberal majority in the House of Commons passes the new laws.


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