– – – Legislation Would Provide Tools to Government, Enforcement and Public Health During Transition of Federal Legalization of Marijuana: Stefanson
The Manitoba government is introducing new legislation that would be focused on harm reduction and public safety as part of its ongoing preparation for federal legalization of marijuana, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.
“This legislation would be an early step by our government to target drug-impaired driving and prioritize the health and safety of Manitoba youth,” said Stefanson. “As the federal government moves to legalize cannabis, our government is focused on the safety and health of all Manitobans.”
The federal government is expected to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017 to legalize and regulate non-medicinal cannabis use, Stefanson said, noting that actual legalization is not expected until early 2019. Manitoba’s proposed cannabis harm prevention act would provide tools to government, enforcement and public health during this anticipated two-year gap, she said.
The proposed legislation would provide for significant changes to The Highway Traffic Act and related legislation to ensure police agencies are better equipped to deal with drug-impaired drivers. Specifically, the new legislation would:
allow for 24-hour driver’s license suspensions if a police officer believes the driver is under the influence of a drug and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle;
require the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to determine if graduated licensed drivers who receive the 24-hour suspension should face further consequences;
create an offence for consuming marijuana in or on a vehicle that is on a highway;
require marijuana to be stored in a secure compartment – for example, the vehicle’s trunk – so that it is inaccessible to people in the vehicle, similar to the rules around open liquor; and
establish similar restrictions and prohibitions related to marijuana use for individuals driving off-road vehicles.
“Drug-impaired drivers are a real threat to the public, which is why we support any mechanism governments can put in place to reduce the risk,” said Andrew Murie, chief executive officer, MADD Canada. “Impaired driving is still a serious problem in Manitoba and across the country. Manitoba’s legislation helps to send the message that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and unacceptable.”
The Manitoba government first announced plans to develop a legislative and regulatory framework to address the dangers of drug-impaired driving, reduce harm to users, and protect children and youth from exposure to marijuana in the 2016 Speech from the Throne.
These interim measures would be re-assessed if new roadside tests for drug improvement are approved for use in Canada, Stefanson said. Similar legislation allowing for 24-hour driver’s license suspensions is already in place in British Columbia.
The proposed legislation would also make changes to several other acts to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate including:
The Non-Smokers Protection Act, that would prohibit smoking of marijuana or using an electronic cigarette in any enclosed public place or indoor workplace;
The Public Schools Act, that would clarify that students using, possessing or being under the influence of marijuana while at school could still face disciplinary consequences even if the federal government legalizes marijuana;
The Mental Health Act, that would ensure residential patients who are not allowed to receive illicit drugs will continue to be prohibited from obtaining marijuana; and
The Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act, that would ensure the legislation continues to apply to individuals who use marijuana as a tool to exploit or traffic another person.