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No shortage of fear and alarm at pot hearings: Tim Harper

It was left to American visitors to inject some calm and show legalization can work.

A juvenile plant grows at Bedrocan Canada, a medical marijuana facility, in Toronto on August 17, 2015. Federal legislation will allow a limit of four plants to be grown in homes.

DARREN CALABRESE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A juvenile plant grows at Bedrocan Canada, a medical marijuana facility, in Toronto on August 17, 2015. Federal legislation will allow a limit of four plants to be grown in homes.

It’s difficult to analyze the impact of Ottawa’s coming marijuana legislation with studies and numbers and examinations of other jurisdictions.

This is the type of social legislation that sparks emotions that can’t be allayed with pie charts.

There are many thousands, if not millions, of Canadian parents worried this will make it easier for their children to find pot.

On the other hand, an untold number of parents are likely to spark one up tonight to relax after the kids head to bed.

At a parliamentary committee hearing Tuesday — one of a week long series of hearings on the marijuana legislation — it was left to American visitors to cut through the Canadian paranoia that dominated most of the day.

Officials from Colorado and Washington brought the temperature down on the question of use by youth, mayhem in the streets and time lines.

A Colorado official likened their experience to “flying the plane while we were still building it.’’ But they got there.

It was left to Canadian police, aided and abetted, by Conservative MPs to raise the alarm bells.

Police say it will be impossible for them to be ready by the July 2018, legislation date. The period between passage of the legislation and the time police are ready is when organized crime will really gain an unshakable toehold on the pot industry, warned Rick Barnum, the OPP deputy commissioner for organized crime.

The OPP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said they need hundreds more officers trained in cannabis-impaired driving recognition. But when, exactly, do police not ask for more time and money?

They also painted a horrific picture of the result of the legislation that allows a limit of four plants for home grows. This isn’t four little plants sitting on a window sill, said Mike Serr of the CAPC. Maybe not, but he outlined an eye-popping picture of how one indoor plant would yield 60 to 100 grams per plant in a building of 200 units in which half were growing marijuana, causing safety hazards, home invasions, pot for kids and safety violations.

To be sure, there are some realities at play here. The most damaging thing that can come from marijuana use, whether you are a youth or an adult, is being ensnared in the criminal justice system.

Under this legislation, adults with more than 30 grams, youths with more than five grams, or someone who tries to sneak a fifth plant into their home are all criminals.

It is unfair to criminalize an 18-year-old with six grams of marijuana in his possession when his 19-year-old brother can legally buy 30 grams.

It is blatant hypocrisy to continue to lay possession charges as legalization looms.

As many as 17,000 possession charges were laid in 2016, disproportionately laid against the marginalized and racialized, as recently reported in the Star.

And it is also blatantly unfair to anyone whose life has been upended with criminal convictions for possession once pot is legalized. They must be pardoned.

Those concerned about an increase in youth smoking rates should remember that those in the 12- to 18-year-old age group know where to find pot now and they will know how to find it on the black market after July 1, 2018.

The black market is not going away after that date, particularly in Ontario where Kathleen Wynne is starting with 40 drab, government-run outlets for the entire province, even if there is an online option. If you’re buying pot from a trusted outlet now, it is highly unlikely you’re going to make a lengthy sojourn to hit one of those stores on a Saturday night to restock.

The choices youth make regarding marijuana come from their teachings at home and school. Kids will perceive that there is less harm from this drug if it is legal.

In Colorado and Washington, a few years into legalization there has been no explosion in youth usage.

In Washington, for example, use is now down among 8th and 10th graders.

It is rare for a visiting official to come to Ottawa and criticize Canadian legislation, but Michael Hartman of the Colorado Department of Revenue pointed out that his state of 5 million people is spending $12 million on outreach to youth about the dangers of marijuana. Ottawa is spending $9 million for a country more than six times the size of the state.

That may be the lesson here for kids and marijuana. Spend some real money to teach them.

Tim Harper writes on national affairs. tjharper77@gmail.com , Twitter: @nutgraf1

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