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Posted: October 17, 2018

Cranbrook will survive marijuana legalization

Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Steady as she goes seems to be the phrase to describe the feelings of Cranbrookians as we stand on the eve of the Age of Aquarius with legalization of marijuana Oct. 17. According to astrologers, the Aquarian Age actually began Nov. 11, 2011 (11,11,11) but if you were caught smoking pot back then you could be thrown in jail. Today you would be considered a harmless consumer of a miracle drug, a free-thinking hipster or just plain “cool.”

“We’re in for a big cultural shift in this country,” says Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt, adding the city is in the process of passing a raft of bylaw amendments to deal with the “big cultural shift.” One of these will allow up to 10 recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city when such facilities become legal. Kimberley already has two pot shops, but Cranbrook avoided going down the same path until recreational cannabis was legalized, says the Mayor.

So, what are the good burghers of Cranbrook in for when recreational cannabis dispensaries open here? Tamarack Dispensaries in Kimberley gives a good idea. The hemp outlet in the Alpine City advertises baked goods by “Red Seal Chefs,” infused edibles such as jelly hard candies, brownies, vegan bars and “canna butter” whatever that is.

The pot shop also sells infused hot chocolate, soothing teas and “discrete and measured water enhancers” whatever they are. You can also partake of “bath bombs” (don’t ask me), organic topical creams, mouthwash and stick-on pain patches. Veterans receive a 20% discount, the last Wednesday of the month is Senior’s Day and membership is described as “easy.” Is there any marketing gimmick they missed? I don’t think so. The days of “Reefer Madness” are obviously over and I say amen to that.

But despite what the pot purveyors say to sell their product and all its alleged benefits of which profit may be the biggest, the Canadian Medical Association still doesn’t have anything nice to say about hemp, medical or otherwise: “The CMA has longstanding concerns about the health risks associated with consuming marijuana, particularly in smoked form. Children and youth are particularly at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.”

This message isn’t lost on Jason Tichauer, former Mt. Baker Secondary Principal and School District No. 5 Director of Learning and Aboriginal Education. “Just because something is legalized doesn’t mean that we condone it in our facilities.”

Tichauer says he’s well aware of a knot of Baker Students that regularly gather on the sidewalk across from Baker to smoke and vape. “We have very little control over that.” Some are 19 and will soon be able to smoke pot legally across from the school, but if they do that they will not be allowed back in school. The safety of our students and staff will always be our first priority,” says Tichauer, who’s also School District No. 5’s Safe Schools Coordinator.

Meanwhile East Kootenay Addiction Services Society Executive Director Dean Nicholson says the latest research shows marijuana use has been decreasing steadily the past 10 years. “They’ve been doing it already, so I don’t expect a big change over that (legalized marijuana). We see this as a step forward.”

Locking users up certainly didn’t work in the past, he says. “Approaching control solely from a criminal perspective doesn’t seem to be particularly effective. You have to approach it from a public health perspective.”

RCMP Sgt. Don Erichsen, head of the East Kootenay Traffic Unit, says police will be using “enhanced” techniques to deal with drivers impaired by marijuana or any other mind-altering substance. “We’re going to be out there hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”

Even though cannabis use can’t be easily measured by a machine the way alcohol can, police can still determine impairment by using standard field sobriety tests (touching your nose, walking a straight line) to determine impairment as they’ve done for years, he says.

Former Interior Health Tobacco Reduction Coordinator Ron Popoff says he’s not expecting an explosion in marijuana use because of legalization. Nor because higher TCH levels today make the drug stronger than when The Beatles were smoking it. But he offers a warning. “The cannabis of today isn’t the cannabis of the ‘60s. Treat it with respect and caution and don’t overdo it.”

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who often wonders why people have to be “high” to have a good time.

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