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The Balancing Act: Legalizing Cannabis through Bill 30

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The Government of Canada is legalizing cannabis. The provincial government must now develop a framework for the legal recreational consumption of cannabis.

Bill 30 is the legislation to control and license the newly legalized industry in British Columbia.

Critics on both sides have pushed on this legislation. It has either gone too far or not far enough. The approach is generally conservative with the province taking a firm stand. The program is modelled off the regulation for liquor distribution and consumption creating an administrative body for licensing and enforcement.

This legislation will most certainly be amended as we get an understanding of how these new rules are applied and once the province has an ability to analyze how effective it has been.

There are a few issues that I will be raising in committee stage primarily around craft cannabis, small scale producers accessing local markets, marginalization of non-property owners and how we are going to address the significant challenges at the British Columbia/Washington border.

[Transcript]

It’s an honour to stand today and speak to Bill 30, cannabis control act. It is a time, I think, in this country, as provinces across the country do work to comply with the federal decision to legalize the recreational consumption of cannabis…. 

I think for some in this country, it’s been a long time in coming. For others…. I think we’ve heard other perspectives of still quite a bit of concern around this particular product.

I would say that the feedback that I have received from…. People who’ve gone through the bills have said that there’s some tentative and general support for it, that the government has taken a fair approach to it. There are definitely some concerns to the approach that the provincial government is taking and certainly some concerns to the approach that the federal government is taking.

I think we see concerns on both sides, so that might suggest that the minister has done a good job in striking balance as we are creating a piece of legislation, a framework, from the ground up. You get criticism on both sides. Those that think you should go further are criticizing you, and those that don’t think you should go that far are also giving you criticism. Well, you’ve struck a nice balance right down the middle. 

That has been the feedback that I’ve received so far. Of course, I’ve also received the feedback that if in fact we don’t make amendments to this bill right now, then the entire world is going to come down around us and that will be the end of things. Of course, I think that we know that that’s not entirely the case. I think that, as was suggested the other day, there are going to be quite a number of amendments and changes as we understand how this bill is put into action.

I think, from my perspective and certainly from some of the perspectives that I have heard, we are taking a rather conservative approach to this. We’re testing it out, we’ll make some changes as we learn, and we’re really responding. As has been pointed out by the previous speaker, we’re responding to the approach that the federal government is taking, which is still yet to be passed. Yet we’ve got to get our action together and put our work in place for when the federal government does eventually pass their legislation through both Houses there in Ottawa. 

To hear the member and the official opposition speak, B.C. Liberals’ approach to this is a much more conservative approach than you’re going to hear from this member or from our caucus with respect to the approach that we should be taking with respect to substances, substance abuse, addiction. Our approach is not a top-down, strict, government-command-and-control approach. That’s the approach that we’ve heard — that this legislation really doesn’t go far enough, and lots of concerns. 

Certainly, we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our citizens. That is primarily why we do take more of a harm-reduction approach to substance use, substance abuse, addition — more of a perspective that we need to have better education on the impact that these substances have. As well, we need a system and a government that provide support to citizens who are struggling with drug addiction and substance abuse. 

In this country, we’ve seen — indeed, on this continent and around the world — that the war on drugs simply hasn’t worked. We’ve heard a perspective laid out here in the official opposition’s position that we need really strict and strong enforcement. That’s what we’ve had. We have right now a situation in which legalization of cannabis is largely being moved because those laws that are in place are being flouted by large percentages of the population.

[Continued…

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