Task force chair says everyone needs to obey the rules on legalized cannabis

Task force chair says everyone needs to obey the rules on legalized cannabis
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FREDERICTON — The former chair of the federal cannabis task force says she expected the initial celebration of recreational weed legalization — but it’s now time for everyone to play by the rules.

Anne McLellan said her caution applies to the producers, government and private retailers, and Canadians buying the products.

McLellan said she expected some industry players would push the limits, and members of the public would smoke cannabis in places they shouldn’t this week.

“I think we probably knew that would happen because that’s the exuberance of entering into the new legalized epoch. Hopefully those people would have had their joyful moment of transformative change and will start to obey the law,” she said.

Police in British Columbia seized thousands of dollars worth of marijuana from two private dispensaries this week and accused both stores of being open without provincial licences.

Hours after people lined up outside Newfoundland cannabis stores to buy the first legal bud in Canada, police in St. John’s, N.L., say they ticketed a man accused of having more than 30 grams of weed in a public place without a licence.

Halifax district RCMP said they issued a $295 fine after officers spotted an open bag of government-supplied cannabis within the driver’s reach after he was pulled over for having expired plates at 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Dartmouth.

The website of New Brunswick’s Crown agency, Cannabis NB, has come under question for its product descriptions and images of people smiling and taking a selfie or holding a yoga pose — things that may violate federal regulations.

Thierry Belair, press secretary to federal Health Minister Ginette Pettipas Taylor, would only say “Health Canada is looking into it.”

Cannabis NB spokeswoman, Marie-Andree Bolduc, said the number one focus of their website is education.

“Our Occasions, ‘Discover, Refresh and Connect’, are educational tools meant as a starting point of discussion between our guides and the customers to help them chose the product that might be more suitable for them. Naturally, we expect Health Canada to be interested in what all jurisdictions are doing, and we look forward to having continued discussions with them,” she said.

“We are open to receiving feedback from the public, provincial and federal officials and modify the content accordingly if required.”

McLellan, a former Liberal deputy prime minister, said the lesson has been learned from legalization in some American states — you have to enforce the rules now if you expect them to be obeyed in the future.

“We heard over and over again in Colorado and Washington, whenever you establish the regime you have to enforce it. Otherwise people will continue to break the law. You will continue to have illegal producers and sellers and it undermines the legal regime,” she said.

McLellan said the task force was also told that regulations should be very strict at the start, and could always be loosened in the future. She said Colorado had to make revisions so that their regime would be more restrictive.

Many retailers across the country have already reported running out of some products. McLellan said that was expected, and it will take a few months to get a better handle on supply and demand.

She said while there is a lot of news and discussion now, the legalization isn’t going to affect the majority of Canadians who don’t use cannabis.

“By and large life will go on as we knew it before. I have every confidence we can work this out in a respectful way, as long as everybody plays by the rules,” she said.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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