The federal government is spending $36.4 million over the next five years on a marijuana education and awareness campaign.
The government says, the campaign will aim to educate Canadians youth in particular about the health and safety risks of marijuana use, and drug-impaired driving.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Toronto MP Bill Blair, the government’s point man on legalizing pot, told a news conference outside the House of Commons that the allotted money is from the $526 million for marijuana legalization announced.
“We have never indicated that we are promoting the use of marijuana,” Petitpas Taylor said.
“We want to ensure that Canadians, and youth in particular, have access to the information that they need with respect to risks associated with cannabis use.”
Public education up until now has focused in large part on consequences of breaking the law, Blair added, suggesting legalization will allow parents, teachers, health professionals to have conversations with young people.
The campaign will be expanded once legalization takes hold to help explain how the new laws work, Petitpas Taylor said.
The federal Liberals insist they’re still committed to passing that legislation by July 2018, although the Opposition Conservatives, health care experts, a number of provinces and police have raised concerns about the ambitious goal.
The government is wedded to an arbitrary timeline for no good reason, said Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu.
“It is definitely rushed,” said Gladu, who described the handling of the file as typical of the Liberals: grand promises and poor execution.
“Everybody thinks this bill is flawed, whether they are cannabis activists, currently in the distribution area or in the policing force or in the provincial and municipal authorities.”
The bill sets out the parameters around the production, possession, safety standards, distribution, and sale of marijuana which also creates new Criminal Code offences for selling marijuana to minors.
The committee made to the bill, was cutting out the height restriction on homegrown marijuana plants. Despite a wide range of other serious concerns about the legislation, the impact on youth and the bill staying silent on edibles, to provinces and police forces’ preparedness, no other substantive amendments were passed.
“We … want to be cognizant of the fact that we want to make sure we get this right and all of the levels of government that are involved are comfortable with it,” MacGregor, the NDP’s deputy justice critic said, describing the idea of an awareness campaign.
“We are still worried about the fact provinces and territorial governments are going to have to take on heavy responsibilities to bear the burden of legalization, which includes health care and enforcement.”
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