Joint Venture: What marijuana legalization could look like in Nova Scotia

With the federal government planning to legalize cannabis next summer, CBC Nova Scotia gathered health-care workers and those who dispense or want to grow marijuana to discuss what the change could mean in this province.

Ottawa expects to legalize cannabis by Canada Day, but the province is still working out details of its plans

Joint Venture panellists, from left to right: Chris Enns, Myrna Gillis, Todd Leader and Nadine Wentzell. (CBC)

While the federal government has announced that it plans to legalize cannabis by next summer, Nova Scotia has yet to lay out a vision for its own plans.

Provincial governments are working to get regulatory and retail measures in place — and some are further ahead than others. For example, New Brunswick recently announced that it won't allow the use of pot in public places and a requirement that marijuana must be kept locked up in homes.

Nova Scotia has largely kept quiet about what marijuana production, distribution and consumption will look like.

That's why CBC Nova Scotia gathered health-care workers and those who dispense or want to grow marijuana to debate the green frontier.

Four panellists took part in the discussion, dubbed Joint Venture: 

  • Chris Enns, owner of The Farm Assist Medical Marijuana Dispensary and the Grow Op Shop.
  • ​Myrna Gillis, CEO of Aqualitas, which has applied for a licence to grow medical marijuana. She is also a labour lawyer.
  • Nadine Wentzell, a pharmacist and a consultant on drugs in the workplace.
  • Todd Leader, a psychologist and president of the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia.

The panellists discussed a range of issues related to marijuana legalization, a selection of which are included below.

What restrictions do you think there will be on smoking in public spaces?

Todd Leader believes all jurisdictions that currently prohibit smoking in indoor public spaces will expand the prohibition to include smoking of any substance. Chris Enns disagreed, saying as long as people are not being a nuisance, they should be allowed to smoke marijuana wherever they want.

"If we're going to take it a bit further and say getting together at the park and sharing a joint is morally and lawfully inappropriate, I think we're moving in the wrong direction and back towards prohibition, rather than ending this war on drugs," said Enns.

Will or should the proceeds from legalization be used for education and infrastructure as in Colorado and Washington State?

The panel was divided on the issue of how helpful it would be to provide education programs on marijuana use. Leader said education does not deter people and money should not be funnelled into it.

"If we're talking about education for the sake of trying to create responsible use or prevent use, any of that education does not work," said Leader. "Health education generally is an ineffective method at changing behaviour or at preventing behaviour or at modifying behaviour."

That hasn't been Nadine Wentzell's experience, at least in the workplace. She said a study done in 2003 by the International Labour Organization showed that when employees learned about the safety concerns around using certain drugs while working, fewer people used the drugs while on the job.

How will legalization of cannabis change the workplace? 

Wentzell said the employers she works with are concerned about an increase in marijuana use and how it will impact the way they run their business.

"It's getting people thinking about what are the best options to put in place and how to treat it appropriately, respecting people's rights and privacy and dignity. Also with balancing that with health and safety in the workplace with their due diligence to provide a safe workplace."

Wentzell said the most important thing for employers to do is educate themselves and develop a policy addressing people's use of medication in the workplace.

"Making sure that people … know they're expected to show up fit for work and remain fit for work. So that would mean not impaired using any substance — alcohol, cannabis, prescription medication.… So to have those discussions with your employees so there is no guesswork."

Watch CBC Nova Scotia's Joint Venture panel discussion in its entirety below: