The New Brunswick government says it is trying to protect young people from the dangers of cannabis use by introducing new legislation that requires users to lock up their marijuana when at home.
The Cannabis Control Act sets the minimum age for buying cannabis at 19 and sets criteria for possessing and using it. As well, the province is establishing penalties for drug-impaired driving.
“I think just the fact (the laws are) there, it creates awareness and just awareness in itself is a good step forward in order for people to understand we are serious about keeping children and youth safe and having those products out of their hands,” said Benoît Bourque, the province’s health minister.
“In terms of enforcement…like every law, there are ways to enforce them. There are also some challenges but we will go ahead.”
Under the proposed legislation, cannabis stored in a private home has to be in a locked container or locked room in order to make sure it’s away from minors. The act also requires people growing cannabis on private property to secure the operation, whether it be indoors or outdoors.
“For people here in New Brunswick who have guns in their houses, it’s locked. It’s their responsibility. This will be the same thing,” said Denis Landry, the province’s justice and public safety minister.
Adults over 19 will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of unsealed cannabis, as laid out in the federal act, but recreational cannabis use is banned from public places.
Anyone under 19 is prohibited from buying, attempting to buy, possessing or consuming cannabis, as well as supplies for smoking or vaping. They also can’t cultivate cannabis or go into a cannabis retail store, even if accompanied by an adult.
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However, the federal Cannabis Act sets a minimum age for possession at 18, and Alberta and Quebec have set their minimum age to buy marijuana at 18 as well. Some question what will stop an 18-year-old from ordering cannabis by mail from those provinces, or whether an 18-year-old attempting to grow their own cannabis could put forth a constitutional challenge since federal rules allow them to.
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Meanwhile, the province is also amending the Motor Vehicle Act to include a drug-impaired driving program.
Among the proposed sanctions are immediate short-term roadside suspensions, participation in a “re-education course” for drug-impaired drivers, and zero tolerance for new drivers and those under 21.
‘We have to monitor the situation’
The province’s acting chief medical officer of health says she is hopeful New Brunswick’s cannabis framework and legislation ahead of federal legalization will be effective in keeping cannabis out of the hands of young people.
“We were concerned about anything related to cannabis that would increase the rates of smoking right now because we have seen a drop in numbers. They’re not as low as we’d like to see but we wouldn’t want to see those go up,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell.
“I think we have a good chance at success but I think that we do have a lot of work ahead of us and so I don’t take any of this lightly. I think that we have to monitor the situation.”
— With a file from Jeremy Keefe