The New Brunswick government says it is trying to protect young people in the province from the dangers of cannabis use by introducing new legislation.
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.
“For us, it is a clear sign to show people, the population of New Brunswickers, that this product is to be used very, very responsibly by adults.”
Under the legislation, 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.
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.
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.
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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
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