Is Brampton ready for Cannabis?

Ontario residents are now able to purchase cannabis legally from the Ontario Cannabis Store and can grow up to 4 plants for personal use.  Is Brampton prepared to deal with this new norm?

Under federal legislation, the provinces are responsible for setting the regulations and standards for retail distribution with the passing of Bill 36. Under Bill 36, it would allow private retail stores to be established within Ontario municipalities that have not opted out. Municipalities will have until January 22, 2019 to pass a resolution to either opt in or out of having retail stores in their community. There will be no time period for opting back in. Once a municipality decides to opt in, the decision cannot be reversed. See Briefing.

Where will Brampton’s new mayor and council stand on allowing retail distribution of cannabis? Will they opt in? Based on responses we have received from current councillors and candidates, the debate will be contentious as residents are similarly divided. What exactly does the municipality stand to gain or lose?

Under Bill 36, the Province has deemed that the legalization of cannabis will impact local services and enforcement. To help manage municipal impacts, the government  “will provide municipal governments with $40 million of Ontario’s portion of the Federal excise tax on cannabis with a 50/50 Provincial-municipal split if Ontario’s revenues exceed $100 million in the first 2 years“.

What are the “municipal impacts” that the Provincial government is referring to? Brampton Focus sent a request to the Peel Regional Police to find out if they have instituted any policy changes for officers. To date we have not received a response. It has been reported that Canada’s largest police forces, including Peel Regional Police, do not have cannabis detection devices. Many forces are undecided on ordering Draeger Drug Test 5000’s. These are the only federally approved device with a $6,000 price tag per unit. Ottawa’s police chief says that an issue they are dealing with is keeping test swabs at the right temperature. This has many defense lawyers salivating (see reference).

Many Police forces will be relying on roadside sobriety tests to screen for drug impaired drivers. If a driver fails, police can take the driver in for further testing.

Brampton Focus also sent a request to the City of Brampton with the following response:

The use of cannabis is treated no differently than alcohol or other substances, and therefore its use is not permitted in the workplace. Employees are expected to ensure a safe workplace and work in a safe manner at all times.”

A request was sent also to the Peel District School Board and we are still awaiting a response. The boards smoking policy was recently updated to include the prohibited use of cannabis on school property. However, anyone that passes by a high school in the regoin will clearly see the policy being flouted every day with no enforcement.

A significant challenge will be in determining whether an employee is under the influence of cannabis in the workplace. How will the employer confirm any suspicions? This is complicated as the smell normally attributed to cannabis can be masked or eliminated with vaping technology that has no smell. It looks like a cigarette vape.

Our schools, police and government are not the only ones ill-prepared to deal with thelegalization of cannabis. Canadians could face rising car and insurance costs as a result. A recent Statistics Canada survey revealed that 1 in 7 cannabis users report driving within 2 hours of using and crash rates have increased in the US where cannabis has been legalized.

Home owners that decide to grow could also face increased rates due to damages from mold or fungus, not to mention the mitigation risk for apartment and condo dwellers.

Cannabis legalization will impact employee health plan coverage, employee substance abuse programming, dealing with safety sensitive operation of equipment, training managers to identify usage and  increase human rights issues and civil litigation.

These are only some of the many challenges that our elected officials and institutions will face over the next several months. Brampton Focus will be following closely.