By DAVID JOHNSON
PREMIER JOHN HORGAN says marijuana users in British Columbia could face the same rules as those who smoke tobacco in public. Horgan says his government is still formulating its marijuana policy, but following bylaws that prohibit people from smoking near buildings or public spaces is under consideration.
It also appears likely that recreational cannabis will be distributed following the same basic concepts as the alcohol distribution system in B.C. That policy has not been announced yet either, but it looks like we will be buying our weed at the liquor store. We already know that driving laws will more or less closely follow drinking driving laws, although enforcement is still a serious problem.
One is left to try to figure out why we are considering using some existing alcohol laws, and some existing tobacco laws. If we are going to sell it at liquor stores and prohibit its use while driving, why would we have public consumption laws that mirror tobacco bylaws and regulations?
Would it not make more sense to match public consumption laws with those of public alcohol drinking laws?
Let’s say I decided to drink a beer while walking down the street. If an RCMP officer saw me, they would stop, pour out my beer, possibly write me a citation for drinking in public and either send me on my way or if it appeared I was going to become a disruption to the public peace due to intoxication, I would get a ride to the tank to sleep it off. If I elevated the situation beyond that, there are a myriad of other laws the officer could use towards the public good. This has been the law, and the way it has been done, for a long time.
I am not saying that the guy walking down the street smoking a joint is likely to end up creating a problem regarding the public peace, but that the act of consumption itself is certainly more noticeable.
While I drank my beer, I could quietly finish it surreptitiously and no one would know until my behaviour became altered. The moment someone lights the cannabis, everyone knows.
In the case of cannabis, the act of consumption itself is offensive to many other people. A lot of people just don’t like the smell. Beyond any second hand smoke health issues, many feel it is a particularly pungent and intrusive smell. Much more so than tobacco. A passerby will smell it when passing the active pot smoker, then will continue to smell it for about half a block. If a person is standing still and smoking some, the smell is noticeable over a larger area, and lingers for quite a while. Most people do not like the smell.
If laws match tobacco public consumption laws we now have the argument that the act of consumption interferes with other peoples ‘enjoyment of the community’. The consequences of consumption like in the case of the beer is the problem, but the act of cannabis consumption itself is a detriment to others.
Because of this, the plan behind public consumption needs to be very carefully looked at. Allowing people to consume it at the same limits now allowed for tobacco, will mean we will have open public use of an adult restricted inebriating product. This will mean that adults and children will be forced to confront it at the street corner, public park, sidewalk or parking lot. Is that what we want?
The public ‘smoking bar’ for cannabis consumption, or café or smoke house is another issue that we can deal with another day. Best to leave that on the shelf for now until we learn about the issues we will have yet to deal with. Restaurant patios are another place to carefully consider this. Obviously not all allowed alcohol sites would be appropriate.
This federal change in law, beyond finally getting past the prohibition issue, and the massive judicial expense of running people through the court system for simple small amount possession … this is about providing the opportunity for people who choose to use it in the privacy of their own home or at permitted events. The idea of that kind of limited permittance mirrors that of alcohol consumption, our other adult oriented inebriant. Perfectly legal when used appropriately and we are accustomed to the rules of where and when.
The regulations for public cannabis consumption should match our present public alcohol consumption regulations, not tobacco regulations. Or perhaps a hybrid of both.
Premier Horgan should have another look at this, and consider another option to public cannabis use.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.