Today, Oct.17th, is the day when cannabis becomes permitted for personal use. There are matters that should give everyone a pause for reflection.
We know that not everyone is pleased with this initiative of Prime Minister Trudeau. But the reality is here. So for those of you who have visions of a bacchanalian Woodstock involving your kids, take a moment and consider the following.
Many of you who are parents will have to be more vigilant with your kids. This is not a legalization in the sense that the state declares it has no role to play. There are rules and there are penalties. So teens particularly take note of this. There may not be any more criminal prosecutions for simple possession, but You can only carry a maximum of 30 grams on your person. You can only have up to 150 grams in your home at any time. You may not grow your own plants. If you violate these rules there are fines and they are severe. They start at $700 for a first offence and rise steeply from there. The only exception is if you have permission for medical reasons.
Possession for trafficking is still forbidden. The change is for personal use only. The sale of Cannabis will be through government sanctioned agencies and locales. In Quebec it will be available only at specialized SAQ outlets.
Employers and employees will have to do a delicate balancing act. Employees must realize that while the smoking is legal, the intoxication in the place of work will not be tolerated by most employers. Decriminalization does not protect employees who are stoned at their jobs. Labour norms apply as they do with alcohol.
Friends should look out for friends even more vigilantly. If you have a designated driver at parties to protect those who drink, make sure there is one for those who smoke. Impaired driving laws still apply even though police have not yet determined how cannabis consumption will be measured. To paraphrase the expression, "Friends don't let friends drive stoned."
We will all have to pur ourselves in the shoes of all those we've named above. There will an adjustment period. Hopefully people will act responsibly. But all of us have a role to play. We need to be compassionate and caring good neighbours. Watch out for the other person. Be stern when you have to be, but understanding as well.
A final word for our governments. Many of the regulations in the application of the Federal law will be done by the provinces. Each will have certain nuanced differences. Quebec's government -elect is considering raising the legal age for purchase to 21 from the federal 18. Ontario is considering licenses to private entrepreneurs who pass security checks. This first year that begins today will be a confusing one with regards to rules and regulations. That was inherent in the law and in our split jurisdiction justice system. So there will be problems. We trust that Ottawa will have in place more clarity and a mediation process to sort things out when the regulatory and interpretive messes start. For certain they will. Good luck to us all.