Canada is inching its way toward the legalization of marijuana, and while some are crying foul over the slow pace of this Liberal election promise, I, for one, am quite content with the time it is taking.
The bills governing cannabis, C-45 (The Cannabis Act) and C-46 (to tighten the rules on impaired driving — you will not be allowed to use cannabis in a car) are sitting stuck in the Senate waiting for about 20 senators to weigh in on the issue.
The bill's sponsor in the chamber, Independent Senator Tony Dean, tried to organize a "structured" debate that would have given senators a chance to examine the new laws, but Conservative senators rejected this proposal arguing that it would not allow for the full airing of the opposition's many concerns.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana remains popular with about 65 per cent of those polled on the issue.
Provinces have been moving ahead, planning how they are going to manage the legalization from policing to enforcement to taxation while everyone waits on the federal levels of government to get their acts together.
The Liberals have continued to hold to the line that the legalization would be in place by July of this year, but as the weeks pass it is becoming painfully obvious that the bills will not pass in time to meet that deadline.
Just last week federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor conceded that's not going to happen.
"If you do the math, you can certainly see it certainly won't be July 2018," she was reported to have told the media.
If Bill C-45 is passed by the Senate by June 7, royal assent would likely follow right away, but it would still be at least another 12 weeks before any cannabis would be for sale legally, as it will likely take at least that long for provincial and territorial governments to get ready.
So it looks like August — and that is likely a very optimistic deadline.
This month also saw the release of B.C.'s plan (so far) for managing the legalization of marijuana. The province is taking a hybrid approach — under the plan the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) will set up stores to sell only weed, but private retailers will also be allowed to apply for licences to sell cannabis. People will not be able to buy plants from the BCLDB.
However, B.C. residents will be able to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, so long as the plants are not visible from public spaces off the property. Landlords and strata councils will be able to prohibit home growing, though.
The minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis will be 19 years old, the same minimum age to consume alcohol or tobacco in B.C., as well as the age of majority. You will be able to possess up to 30 grams in public, though the province has announced that it will have a zero-tolerance model for underage possession of marijuana.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler recently passed an amendment to its zoning bylaw to bring it in line with the new federal regulations, and staff will be looking at the new provincial rules to see what direction to head next, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden told Pique recently.
The province has indicated that local governments are free to limit the number and locations of cannabis retail stores within their jurisdictions (though residents would still be able to purchase cannabis online).
And not surprisingly, the municipality is getting lots of requests to set up licenced dispensaries. Whether any will open, or where, remains to be seen.
This will likely be done with public input as well.
And actions like lighting up in the parks or at the beaches will be prohibited just as they are with cigarettes.
What is clear is that there will be bumps along the way as we as a community figure out how this new drug will impact the fabric of our town.
This is a time to stay engaged with the process so that the future reflects the wants and needs of everyone.