Municipal leaders across central are hopeful the upcoming legalization of cannabis will deplete the drug’s illegal market and keep it out of the hands of youth.
Mayors and councillors from across the province attended an Oct. 6 lunch sponsored by licensed producer Aurora Cannabis. The dinner was part of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador’s (MNL) annual Conference and Trade Show, and was intended to spark conversations about the Oct. 17 legalization.
Gander Mayor Percy Farwell says it will be a considerable challenge to keep cannabis away from young people, but he hopes it’s possible.
“Through the regulations the intent is certainly there that it will take away access for youth,” said Farwell. “With the distribution predominantly taken out of the hands of the black market, there’s a much better chance of reducing usage among our young citizens.”
Lewisporte Mayor Betty Clarke agrees that limiting the drug’s accessibility to youth is what stands out as particularly beneficial. Clarke also hopes the safety and health risks will be considerably lessened.
“Rumour has it that marijuana on the black market can be laced with unknown substances, so I think legalizing cannabis will better protect people,” she said.
Andrea Paine, national director of government relations with Aurora Cannabis, gave a presentation before the dinner with insights and economic opportunities around the upcoming shift. With the potential for cannabis lounges and retail stores, Paine specifically mentioned ways the province’s tourism industry could grow.
From speaking with the municipal representatives in attendance, Paine says more education is the common concern, and she is willing to meet individual councils to address any questions.
“Many municipalities feel limited in how many decisions they can make with these new provincial laws,” she said. “If they wanted us to, we’re happy to address their councils.”
Farwell says there are many concerns and stumbling blocks to be dealt with as legalization proceeds, particularly around impaired driving, and how to scientifically determine if a person is impaired from cannabis use.
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“I think we understand it will be a learning process,” Farwell said. “First and foremost, public health and public safety is where municipalities have their interest.”
Coun. Amy Coady-Davis with Grand Falls-Windsor agrees that because this will be a unique experience in the country’s history, it makes it difficult to foresee all the concerns or issues that may result from cannabis hitting the legal market.
“It’s difficult to know what we’re going to face or how the general public is going to respond,” Coady-Davis said. “It’s so brand new and everybody has different opinions on how it’s going to roll out.
“We have a general plan in place and we know the enforcement coming from the province and the RCMP. We just have to make sure we work together and it all goes smoothly as possible.”
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