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Cannabis could cause chaos

Mayor fears without proper regulations, legalization of cannabis could have a number of unforeseen impacts

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The legalization of marijuana in 2018 could create costly issues for municipalities when it comes to enforcement, Mayor John Henry says.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Right now, the scenarios are only ‘what ifs’, but come next year, these troubling situations could become a reality.

What if, during a drug screening at work, THC shows up in your system because while sitting on your deck, your neighbour was smoking pot on the other side of the fence?

What if you called the City of Oshawa to do something about said neighbour smoking in his backyard, could they do something about it?

What if you’re in a car accident and those trace amounts show up, despite the fact you never smoked or consumed marijuana? How will your insurance company react?

These among other questions, are all on the mind of Oshawa Mayor John Henry, who says that the federal government’s downloading of legalized cannabis onto the lower-tier municipalities, could be a recipe for disaster.

“There needs to be an understanding from the federal, provincial, the regional and municipal governments on how we’re going to deal with the issues,” Henry says. “We really need to have the rules in place, or the day this starts, the chaos will start and we will have no tools in the toolbox to deal with this at all.”

Current plans have marijuana becoming legal on Canada Day 2018, and the federal government has left it to the provinces to create rules around regulation, sale and distribution.  Already, the provincial government has made public its plans to sell the drug through an LCBO-like system and have announced the initial 14 locations for these pot shops, including sites in Toronto, Mississauga, Kitchener, London and Vaughn, among others.

The province has also announced preliminary rules for the consumption and use of the drug once it’s legal.

However, Mayor Henry says these regulations fall to the municipalities to enforce, and for the City of Oshawa, it’s bylaw department is strapped as it is.

“The government is going to make all of this money on the sale of it and, in the end, they’re leaving it to us to deal with and I think that’s absolutely wrong,” he says. “And you haven’t heard much leadership on the issue at all.”

Currently, following a motion from Henry at regional council, the Region of Durham is looking into the creation of a region-wide bylaw for the sale of cannabis.

However, the mayor of Durham’s largest city knows that there will also need to be something done at the municipal level, and for that reason, he has staff investigating the potential path forward for regulation and enforcement.

“By giving it to staff we’re going to look at best practices, at least we’re going to start the conversation,” he says.

Henry’s idea received the full support of the Corporate Services committee, where the commissioner of the department, Bev Hendry, noted the topic was already on their radar.

“It’s an issue that we’re starting to explore,” she said. “It’s going to be a brand new situation within our boundaries and we need to give it a little bit more thought.”

The report is slated to come back in March of 2018.