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Pot talk on the agenda as justice ministers meet amid rushed timeline concerns

Federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, centre left, is flanked by Deputy Minister of Justice Nathalie Drouin, left, and Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley, right, at the start of a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety, in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 14, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
September 15, 2017 - 6:00 AM

VANCOUVER - Marijuana legalization is topping a packed agenda as Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould sits down with her provincial and territorial counterparts for two days of meetings in Vancouver.

British Columbia Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said he hopes the gathering, which began Thursday, offers more clarity around how the federal government intends to make good on its ambitious timeline to legalize pot by next summer.

"Obviously, I think the July time frame is a challenge," he said. "But right now that's the timeline, that's the time frame that we're working towards."

Farnworth said he also wants to get a better sense of what other provinces are arranging because of the importance of ensuring certain marijuana laws are consistent across the country.

Ontario Justice Minister Yasir Naqvi described the timeline as tight but added that his province is working with the federal government on preparing for legalization.

The federal government has come under fire for what appears to be a hands-off approach to regulating the sale and policing of marijuana once it becomes legal on Canada Day 2018.

Brian Patterson, head of the public safety group Ontario Safety League, said he is shocked by the federal government's commitment to what is an unrealistic, politically motivated deadline that will put Canadians at risk.

The group released a position paper earlier this month titled "Too Far, Too Fast" urging the government to slow down and consult with police forces, health agencies and provincial governments before introducing legislation.

"Before you open the pool you better check the chlorine levels and know what's going on. And we're just opening the pools because it's Canada Day," Patterson said.

"Spitballing in the dark seems to be the method being used to stick to that date."

Ontario became the first province to make public its plans for legalized cannabis last week, unveiling a regulatory regime that restricts sales to its own liquor board operated stores.

Representatives from several police forces warned the House of Commons health committee earlier this week that there was zero chance police would be ready in time to enforce new laws for legalized pot. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale responded by describing the government's timetable as reasonable.

Youth health experts are urging the federal government to develop extensive prevention and public-education campaigns focusing on the harmful effect of marijuana on adolescent brains, warning that stronger regulations alone will be ineffective in deterring kids from smoking pot.

Other topics up for discussion at the two-day meeting are how the justice system deals with HIV non-disclosure and the fallout from the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that puts a time limit on how long it takes to prosecute a criminal charges.

— Follow @gwomand on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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