University to strike working group addressing cannabis legalization

Queen’s prepares for July 1, 2018 cannabis legalization date announced by federal government

4/20 celebrations on Parliament Hill.

On Nov. 1, the Ontario Liberal government announced its proposed Cannabis Act which, if passed, would regulate the sale of cannabis in Ontario by July 1, 2018.

Queen’s Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec told The Journal, “the University is moving to strike a working group to address the issues legalized cannabis pose for the campus and will be taking into account the recent legislation released by the provincial government.”

The tabled legislation would establish a minimum age of 19 to use, purchase and cultivate cannabis. As well, the new rules would include a ban in public places, workplaces and motor vehicles. 

The Ontario government is also looking into creating strict drug-impaired driving laws, which will include a zero-tolerance approach for “young, novice and commercial drivers.”

On Nov. 3, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) announced in order to manage the sale of cannabis in Ontario, it would move to create the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC). 

The LCBO also announced the first group of 40 dispensaries to open across the province shortly after legalization. Kingston has been announced as one of the first 14 municipalities to receive an OCRC location. The province expects to have 150 stand-alone store fronts by 2020 that span over 14 different cities.

The proposed OCRC will manage the sale of cannabis and mandate dispensaries be a certain distance from schools. As reported on Nov. 7 in The Journal, it’s unclear where the first dispensary will be located and whether or not a university is considered a “school” in the language of the bill.

It also remains unclear whether or not Queen’s administration will have a say in where the first OCRC shop will be located.

According to the Maclean’s annual survey on student cannabis use, Queen’s ranked sixth in Canada, with 37 per cent of respondents saying they’ve used marijuana at least once over the past year. On top of this, Queen’s students were nearly a third higher than the national average, with 48 per cent saying they tried cannabis at least one time.

Of all 49 universities listed in the survey, the top five schools for cannabis use were Bishop’s University at 60 per cent, St. Francis Xavier University at 56 per cent, Acadia University at 53 per cent, Dalhousie University at 50 per cent and University of Victoria at 49 per cent.

With only one per cent of respondents at Queen’s saying they use cannabis daily, students at the University ranked lower than the national average of two per cent.  

The legalization process continues to move forward at the federal level. On Nov. 10, former Toronto Police Chief and Liberal MP charged with overseeing legalization, Bill Blair, announced the government’s proposed cannabis tax regime. Speaking outside of the House of Commons, Blair also announced a public consultation period on the tax plans until Dec. 7. 

The plan looks to add an excise tax of one dollar per gram of cannabis, or 10 per cent of the final retail price, whichever is higher. With the existing plan, revenues will be divided up between the feds and provinces and territories.

On top of the excise tax, federal and provincial sales taxes would also apply to cannabis, meaning prices will vary from province to province.

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