Province elaborates on provincial plans for pot regulation
'I'll be honest, I always was a proponent of decriminalizing marijuana,' says finance minister
P.E.I. Finance Minister Allen Roach says he has always thought marijuana should be decriminalized.
The former RCMP officer of three decades said he's seen the damage an unregulated drug market can do, and the trouble it can cause.
"I have a really good handle on organized crime. And I know what that brings, I've seen people that have been harmed by marijuana being sprinkled with other drugs, thinking they were getting marijuana and they weren't getting it," he said.
"I'll be honest, I always was a proponent of decriminalizing marijuana."
The provincial government provided some preliminary information Thursday on what the legalization of marijuana will look like for Islanders.
On P.E.I., the legal age to buy the substance will be 19, something Roach says was done to get in line with the other Atlantic provinces.
Though Dr. Heather Keizer, the province's chief of mental health and addictions, had advocated for a minimum age of 25, Roach said young people are already using the drug.
We don't want to locate near schools or playgrounds … we want to be very clear that that's a concern to us.— Allen Roach
"There are a number of people that are using marijuana that are well under that age now, we know that," he said.
"We're trying to provide a safe place for that age group to be able to go and to purchase marijuana and to be able to buy a very safe product that's not laced with other things."
On P.E.I., pot will be sold through the Liquor Control Commission at retail outlets separate from their current stores.
Roach said this was because the federal government recommended provinces separate the sales of the two drugs so they "weren't, kind of, promoting the combination use of both products and we agreed with that."
Though there are no set locations for the new stores, Roach said there are clear thoughts on where they won't be.
"To ensure that wherever we put them, that they are not in any sort of a co-location, next door or in the same mall as a current liquor store ... We don't want to locate near schools or playgrounds … we want to be very clear that that's a concern to us," he said.
Smoking in public places will be prohibited, though Roach said this is something the province is looking at making possible changes to down the road.
"We understand that there's locations where people might reside where smoking is prohibited and so we need to, you know, to look at that and see how we're going to be able to sort those things out."
A major concern for provinces and municipalities in the lead up to legalization has been the enforcement of the legislation once it comes into effect, as well as training officers.
Roach said this is something law enforcement has to consistently deal with for a range of issues.
"Currently we do have some officers who are trained in that. As new legislation comes into force … we find ourselves always retraining police officers in new techniques and I think this will follow true to things we've seen in the past," he said.
Roach said the federal government hasn't released details about how much funding provinces will receive to help with the rollout of legislation, but there is a meeting with the federal finance minister Monday, and that will be one of the items on the agenda.
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With files from CBC: Island Morning