'High time' to talk pot: Winnipeggers voice concerns about legal weed

Liberal MP for the Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia-Headingley region, Doug Eyolfson, invited his constituents to come out Tuesday and air their concerns about the pending plans for pot to be legal next year.

Open mic meeting held in St. James tackles topic of legal marijuana in Canada

About a hundred people showed up at a town hall Tuesday night to voice concerns and ask questions about the upcoming legalization and regulation of marijuana. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

About 100 Winnipeggers with pot on their minds gathered at St. James Civic Centre Tuesday night to discuss the pending legalization of marijuana in Canada, and how it could change things for tokers and the weed-free alike.

"This is a fundamental change in Canadian law, we've never done anything like this before," said Doug Eyolfson, Liberal member of Parliament for Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia-Headingley.

The former emergency room doctor invited his constituents to come out and air their concerns about legalization.

"This is a major change in society, so we want to make sure that the public is informed as to why we are doing it and to hear the public's concerns."

The group gathered to hear a short presentation about Bill C-45 , the proposed legislation to legalize marijuana, and were then invited to ask questions or voice concerns.

Second-hand smoke concerns

Many of the people who stood in line to speak were in favour of legalization, but worried about how the legislation would work and how pot would be accepted into everyday life.

Mary LeMaître said she doesn't want to inhale second-hand pot smoke and wants to see legislation that would restrict where people can smoke it. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"I am not interested in second-hand pot smoke, so what are you going to do?" asked Mary LeMaître, who came from Wolseley to take in the meeting.

"For smoking there's regulations as to where you can smoke it. Is the government going to put something like that in place too? Because I don't want drugs in my system."

LeMaître said since the announcement that legalization was coming, she's noticed more people smoking pot in public and is bothered by the idea of breathing in the smoke when she enjoys the outdoors.

"There are a lot of people that say, 'Yeah, that's fine if they want to smoke marijuana, and it's legal, that's their business.' But people who do not smoke it, they don't want to be exposed to the smoke," she said.

Others expressed fears about the potential for the legalization of pot to lead to other kinds of substance abuse.

"I'm concerned about this, and it just makes me nervous," said Fred Kelbert. "I don't think we're ready for it."

Fred Kelbert (second from left) was one of few people at the meeting that was opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"Have they done interviews with people who are addicted to heroin and cocaine, and did they ask them the very clear question, 'Were you first exposed to marijuana?'" Kelbert asked.

Medical marijuana users

Many people also raised concerns about how medical marijuana users might be impacted by the laws surrounding possession, the number of plants that could be grown for personal use and how impairment laws would impact medicinal users.

Some people, like 87-year-old Kris Breckman, stood up just to voice his acceptance of the new legislation, despite having never smoked marijuana.

"For people in my generation, I think they find a lot of difficulty in grasping this without realizing the extent to which the younger generation has embraced cannabis," said Breckman.

Others said they were surprised by the amount of people in favour of the legislation, and thought good questions were raised.

"[I] was happy to hear so many people voicing questions about the details of the legislation and the logistics, rather than opposing it," said supporter Shannon Breckman.

"I think that it's high time that we're working on this, and by the time the government has sorted out the details, we will be ready for it."

Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson said he was pleasantly surprised at how few people in the crowd were opposed to the legalization. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Eyolfson plans to take the messages to a health committee meeting in Ottawa that will be reviewing the proposed legislation.

"I was very pleasantly surprised, and it went very well," he said. "I think it was great feedback, and I think we can use this to help draft some really good law."