Have cannabis questions? The government says its new website has answers
N.L. government launches educational site ahead of October 17 legalization date
The justice minister says the provincial government says it's ready for marijuana legalization — and now it's time for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to get ready too.
"I'd like to think that the short answer is a resounding yes," Andrew Parsons said Monday when asked if the province was ready for October 17, when cannabis will become legal for recreational use across Canada.
The government has spent the past months and years working across many departments and agencies to prepare for what Parsons told the St. John's Morning Show is "the hugest shift in public policy that we've seen, of a social nature, probably since Confederation."
Part of that work has been to put together public education resources to let the people of Newfoundland and Labrador know their own rights and responsibilities around recreational and medical use of cannabis.
"Starting today, people are going to see a lot of signage," Parsons said.
Those public advertisements will point people toward the government's official website for cannabis education, where people can find information about a variety of topics including rules around driving, health concerns and workplace issues.
Cannabis still not allowed in vehicles, public places
Parsons said while the province is ready for legalization, issues will certainly come up after October 17.
The challenges of law enforcement and screening drivers are likely to evolve over time, he said, but it's important for people to realize that even when marijuana becomes legal, driving under the influence will remain strictly against the law.
"One place you cannot smoke it is in your vehicle," he said. A roadside screening test has been approved to detect cannabis in drivers.
There will be other restrictions in place as well, Parsons said, including where cannabis can be consumed.
People can use recreational cannabis in private dwellings and in yards attached to those dwellings, for example, but there may be restrictions on use in hotel rooms and units in apartment dwellings.
Many of the rules in place for public alcohol or cigarette use will also apply to cannabis use, with some exceptions for medicinal marijuana.
Production not a concern
On the supply side, Canopy Growth is set to be a major supplier for the province, but Parsons doesn't anticipate any supply issues before Canopy is up and running.
"We're certainly not worried about the production side," he said.
The purchase of cannabis from unlicensed dealers will remain illegal, as it is now, he said, even as the government attempts to prevent a black market through regulation and pricing strategies.
There is a black market that remains out there, and I'm not silly enough to think that it's going to evaporate instantly.- Andrew Parsons
"The fact is that there is a black market that remains out there, and I'm not silly enough to think that it's going to evaporate instantly with the availability of legal weed."
In particular, Parsons said, the sale of cannabis to children will be prosecuted "vigorously." But overall, he expects legalization will ultimately ease the burden on police and the courts as long as people learn and follow the regulations.
With files from the St. John's Morning Show