Canada is “on the right track” with its approach to legalizing marijuana.
That’s according to Lewis Koski, the former director of the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division during that state’s own legalization process.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Koski said there remains much work ahead for Canada as the realities of legalization play out and as progress is made towards legalizing edibles and cannabis concentrates next year.
“Everything that we’ve seen so far up in Canada would suggest the country is really on the right track,” said Koski, who now runs a consulting firm advising governments on legalization called Freedman & Koski.
“So in a lot of ways, a lot of the things that have made Canada successful up to this point are going to continue to make them successful as they endeavor into regulating other products like edibles and concentrates.”
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The state of Colorado legalized recreational pot in 2014 though it remains illegal federally in the United States.
In Canada, recreational cannabis became legal on Oct. 17.
Legalization was a hallmark campaign pledge of the Liberals, but while Canadians are now free to smoke, vape and grow their own — subject to some limits — there remain questions about how to handle both the legalization of further forms of consumption as well as how to address the risk of impaired driving.
THC, the component in cannabis that produces the effect of a ‘high,’ can remain in the blood for days.
That has raised questions about whether law enforcement will be able to prove people involved in crashes were actively impaired at the time of the collision rather than being sober with days-old THC lingering in their blood.
A lack of clear scientific evidence about how long the effects of cannabis consumption last also adds to that challenge.
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Koski touched on those concerns, noting Colorado did see an uptick in the number of crashes after legalization involving THC in the blood of those involved.
“What we don’t know for sure is whether those people who tested positive for cannabis were impaired because that test simply doesn’t exist,” he said. “Therefore we don’t know whether it was the causation for those particular crashes.”
Despite that, he said there have not been significant challenges for police officers in Colorado when it comes to prosecuting cases of impairment.
He said training law enforcement to identify signs of impairment, as has been done in Canada, helps with that.
And just because legalization has happened doesn’t mean the work will be done.
“Right after legalization occurred, we still had a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done. So we still had a lot of work around edibles regulation, which is not all that different from what’s going to happen in Canada over the next six to nine months, but we also had worked through implementing a mandatory testing program and other issues,” he said.
“It wasn’t like we legalized on Day 1 and all the work was done … it’s just policy that continues to evolve over time.”