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Regional councillors want stricter cannabis laws

Councillors hoping to protect neighbourhoods from undesired developments

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

The region’s health and social services committee wants the province to impose stricter regulations on cannabis in public places.

At the committee’s latest meeting, it approved a motion brought forth by Oshawa councillor Bob Chapman and Whitby councillor Elizabeth Roy.

The motion presented urges the Ontario government to amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act to include a clause that bans all use of cannabis from public places.

According to Roy, the motion would have the province bar the use of cannabis in public places, as it is currently allowed with restrictions within the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

Despite the current restrictions the act already places on public smoking, such as any enclosed workspace, public place, and others, this would limit users of cannabis to their homes.

According to the motion, this is because “…every time cannabis is used it can adversely affect learning and remembering, mental health, and mood and feelings … regular cannabis use over a long period of time can injure the lungs, adversely affect mental health, and lead to physical dependence and addiction.”

Roy says cannabis use can also adversely affect community safety, giving the example of impaired driving.

“It’s a choice for individuals to utilize cannabis, but it’s also a choice for ourselves to have a drink, and I don’t think these are two different usages, especially in relation to public places. You’re not allowed to walk around downtown Whitby with a beer in your hand… but it’s the same thing,” Roy says.

However, Clarington councillor Granville Anderson noted some people use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and not allowing them to smoke outside of their homes could be detrimental to their health.

To him, it could end up being a human rights issue.

Dr. Robert Kyle, the commissioner and medical officer of health for the region, responded that, “If that were an issue, I would have been surprised had it not been in the original Cannabis Act. So I can’t speak to how they carved out the treatment of medical cannabis, but I think the intent behind this motion is really to get at recreational cannabis use.”

Noting that he is not a legal expert, Kyle believes that using cannabis in public for medicinal purposes would be a reasonable defense.

The City of Oshawa recently voted to allow cannabis retailers to apply to open their own stores in the city through a lottery that will allow 25 shops to open across the province on Apr. 1.

Due to the legalization of recreational cannabis use, municipalities have been attempting to decide whether or not to allow stores that sell recreational cannabis, or to distance themselves from it.

Pickering is one such example of a municipality that voted against allowing retail cannabis to be solid in their municipality.

The motion was carried and will be presented at committee of the whole.