Manitoba

Legalizing pot won't curb illegal drug trade, Winnipeg police inspector says

Legalized cannabis was a hot topic of conversation at Canadian Mennonite University Wednesday night as a pastor, a police officer, a rehabilitation counsellor and a medical marijuana producer shared the stage for a panel on the subject.

'Organized crime is not going away,' Winnipeg police Insp. Max Waddell told a crowd at CMU Wednesday

A panel discussion on the legalization of marijuana took place at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg Wednesday night. (from left: Moderator Chris Huebener, CMU Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Winnipeg Police Service Inspector Max Waddell, Nelson Martens, medical marijuana producer Bonify, Erin Morash, pastor at Crystal City Mennonite Church and Trinity Mennonite Church, and Daniel Dacombe, rehabilitation counsellor Addictions Foundation of Manitoba) (CBC/Jeff Stapleton)

Legalized cannabis was a hot topic of conversation at Canadian Mennonite University Wednesday night as a pastor, a police officer, a rehabilitation counsellor and a medical marijuana producer shared the stage for a panel on the subject.

More than 100 people showed up to a panel titled "Our Need for Weed?", which was open to the community and free to anyone who wanted to attend. 

"The goal of this isn't to develop a position. CMU has no official position, we're not looking to work towards that, so much as bring people who care about this issue together to hear from a range of folks who are involved in it in a variety of ways," said Chris Huebner, CMU Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy.

'Organized crime is not going away'

Winnipeg police Inspector Max Waddell said based on information out of Colorado and Washington, two American states who legalized cannabis in 2012, legalizing cannabis in Canada will not curb the illicit drug trade. (CBC/Jeff Stapleton)
Winnipeg police are in the process of developing a training package for officers ahead of the July 1, 2018 deadline.

"We know Bill C-45 states that a person can have up to 35 grams on their person at anytime, so how are officers gonna enforce that if it's above the 30g?," said Winnipeg police Insp. Max Waddell.

Despite the big learning curve, he said officers will be ready in the next seven months. But Waddell — who is also the head of the organized crime unit — warned the legalization of cannabis will not put an end to the illegal drug trade.

"Organized crime is not going away," said Waddell. "We've seen some history down in Colorado and Washington specifically around organized crime, and those types of outlets, where we really haven't seen significant changes in the illicit market. There's still being marijuana sold illegally." 

He said right now in Canada most people with medical marijuana prescriptions are getting their drugs on the black market.

"They're still buying up to 90 per cent of their marijuana through illegal means, so that tells me that there's significant change that needs to be made ahead if we want to truly regulate and control this new change."

'Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe'

A rehabilitation counsellor who works with young people told the crowd that Canada has the highest youth cannabis use in the developed world — a figure he said was three times higher than the number of adult users.
Daniel Dacombe, rehabilitation counsellor with Addictions Foundation of Manitoba said just because cannabis will become legal, does not make it safe. (CBC/Jeff Stapleton)

"The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Abuse released a study last year, which revealed that youth perceptions of marijuana in Canada are typically very positive. There's a lot of misinformation in the youth populations," said Daniel Dacombe, a counsellor with the school-based services at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

Dacombe said young people think just because cannabis isn't produced in a lab, that it's somehow safe and okay for them to use.

"There's realities about using marijuana as a young person that will impact them long-term and that can result in some harms to their lives," said Dacombe.

"During the adolescent years, the brain is going through a rapid period of development and growth. This means that it's very vulnerable to change, both positive and negative. And some of those negative changes can result from introducing chemicals into the brain that wasn't really meant to contain."

Pastor hopeful legalization will open discussions in church

A pastor at two Manitoba Mennonite churches hopes the legalization of marijuana will generate discussions in her congregations.

Erin Morash, pastor at two Manitoba Mennonite Churches said she hopes the legalization of cannabis will open up discussions within her congregation about marijuana use and misuse. (CBC/Jeff Stapleton)
"The medical users that I have come across in my work in their church families, they all have said that they keep their use very quiet for fear of stigma," said Erin Morash, pastor at Crystal City Mennonite Church and Trinity Mennonite Church.

​"I'm not thinking that when this becomes legalized next summer that that's suddenly gonna lift and they're suddenly gonna be able to light up in the church foyer. That's not going to happen. I am hoping though, that it might allow them to become less afraid of judgement in their families, their wider family communities and perhaps in their church communities," said Morash.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

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