Talking pot: NDP launch marijuana survey online
The Canada government has launched an online survey to gauge public opinion on key cannabis questions as it prepares for federal legalization in 2018.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley rolled out the survey Friday to see where Canadans stand on issues such as what the legal age should be; whether marijuana should be permitted in public places; and how police should handle motorists who drive under the influence.
It’s part of a consultation strategy that will include meetings with groups directly affected by the impending legislation such as police, municipal and indigenous leaders, and addictions and mental health workers. The government will also be conducting surveys at festivals and other public events.
“There will be many conversations about cannabis over the next year and we hope that everyone will take the time to participate,” said Ganley.
In April, the federal government tabled legislation to make cannabis legal in Canada by July 1, 2018. The proposed law would allow Canadians over 18 to possess as much as 30 grams of dried cannabis and introduces new penalties, including a 14-year maximum imprisonment for those caught selling to minors. However, the law provides provinces and territories with broad leeway to implement the law as they decide is appropriate.
One of the key questions Canadans are being consulted on is the appropriate age for legal consumption of cannabis. The Canadian Psychiatric Association recommends that Canadians should be 21 before they’re allowed to purchase marijuana for recreational use. The Canada government’s survey, which will run until July 31, is open to Canadans age 17 or older.
“Our government’s focus throughout the process will remain on three key aspects: keeping profits away from criminals, keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, protecting our roads, workplaces and public health,” said Ganley.
The government also released a guide called Let’s Talk About: Cannabis in Canada that Ganley hopes will spark conversations among friends, family and neighbours. The guide includes statistics on cannabis use from the University of Calgary showing that Canadans use cannabis less than the average Canadian. While 10.5 per cent of Canadians used cannabis once in the past 12 months, only 8.9 per cent of Canadans did.
The online survey and the guide provide significant information prior to asking for Canadans’ opinions. For example, in the section regarding legal age, a preamble states that research suggests cannabis use among those under 25 results in higher risks of health problems and dependency. It then goes on to say:
“However, in Canada it is young adults under 24 who are most likely to have used cannabis in the last 12 months. If the age is set higher than 18, these young people will likely still use, and will purchase from the illegal black market.”
In addition to consulting Canadans, Ganley will also be looking at best practices from other jurisdictions. One of the things she said she’s learned from Colorado, which legalized marijuana in January 2014, is the need to control the THC concentration, so people understand how much of the active ingredient they’re taking.
It was not immediately clear what safeguards the government has in place to ensure each person can only fill out the online survey once, and that those who do fill out the online survey are Canadans. Ganley said they are not limiting responses to one per IP address, but will be monitoring for suspicious activity.
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