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Looking for a piece of the legal weed pipe

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

As the legalization of marijuana fast approaches, Durham Region is seeking ways to get its piece of the profit pie to deal with anticipated cost increases.

At its recent committee of the whole meeting, regional council directed staff to deliver a report on the ability to place a surtax, equal to those of senior governments, on cannabis products sold in licensed facilities come July 1, 2018.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested placing an excise tax on marijuana of $1 per gram on sales up to $10 and 10 percent tax on sales of more than $10, with half the revenue distributed to the provinces and territories.

Should a regional surtax become a reality, the funds would be directed to health, social services, and police departments to offset any increased education and safety costs related to the legalization of marijuana.

Regional chair Roger Anderson believes it is unlikely the region would be able to create its own surtax, stating the province of Ontario will have a monopoly in regards to marijuana sales.

However, Whitby Councillor Derrick Gleed contended the province should be pressured “to share in their newfound wealth.”

“We’re the ones who are going to have to do the work on this,” Gleed said, adding council could possibly convince other municipalities to take similar actions.

Council also supported the creation of a single, region-wide by-law related to recreational marijuana as suggested by Oshawa Mayor John Henry, with the reasoning one by-law would be easier to enforce for region employees and police.

To Henry, legalized marijuana could be problematic for people living in multi-residential units that share air interchange systems.

“Someone who chooses to smoke marijuana is going to share it [with the other units],” Henry said, adding that this can be offensive and even harmful to some residents, particularly homes with younger children.

Oshawa Councillor Dan Carter said living beside a marijuana smoker could potentially impact residents who are subject to drug tests.

“It sounds really farfetched but THC stays in your body for 30 days. This is part of a conversation about how we protect individuals who do not use the drugs, but are exposed to the environment where it could affect drug testing.”

Anderson said the region’s by-law would likely be focused on where facilities selling marijuana will be located and not regulating the actions of individual citizens.

Dr. Robert Kyle, the region’s commissioner and medical officer of health, believes marijuana use in Ontario will be regulated similarly to cigarette smoking.

“My understanding is the Smoke-Free Act of Ontario would be a useful kind of foundational statute to regulate smoking [of] cannabis,” he said.

However, he noted the act only allows regulation of ‘common areas’.

“Currently, [in regards to] smoking of tobacco and let alone cannabis we can’t do anything with it if it’s a private residence.”

Kyle did agree the smoking any of substance in multi-residential units has potential negative health effects and is an “increasing concern”.

“If there are solutions which are legal that could be brought into play it would definitely be worth looking at.”