Smoking in public, growing at home among Manitoba’s marijuana

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With legalization of marijuana in Canada just six weeks away, the provincial government agency with jurisdiction over legal cannabis is launching a public awareness campaign to let Manitobans know what they can and can’t do as of Oct. 17.

The Can and Can’t of Cannabis awareness campaign is focused on five key messages: you can only buy legal cannabis from licensed retailers; you can carry up to 30 grams in public; you must be 19 or older to buy or consume cannabis; you can’t grow cannabis at home; and you can’t smoke or vape cannabis in public.

“We always take an empirical approach so we always base it on evidence,” said Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) chief administrative officer Liz Stephenson at a Sept. 4 press conference announcing the awareness campaign. “We conducted a 1,200-person research survey to find out from Manitobans what they knew about cannabis, what their expectations and their plans were, and more recently we followed up with some focus panel testing find out where there were gaps in terms of their knowledge and understanding about cannabis. Our research shows that there’s some uncertainty about the new laws and that is particularly what people can and can’t do when it comes to cannabis once retail cannabis is legal in Manitoba and across the country.”

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said the rules that were established by the government around legalized cannabis are designed to protect people’s health and safety.

“To help keep cannabis out of schools and out of the hands of children and youth, the legal age for cannabis consumption in Manitoba is 19 years old,” he said. “It is also an offence to sell cannabis to a young person and to provide identification to a young person for the purpose of purchasing cannabis or entering an age-restricted cannabis store. To further protect health and safety, cannabis can not be consumed in public places in Manitoba. Smoking and vaping of cannabis will be prohibited in public places including streets and sidewalks, parks and beaches, school grounds and restaurant patios and decks. Additionally, our government has made the decision to prohibit the growing of campus in the home. This prohibition will keep cannabis away from kids while helping keep sure that cannabis is not diverted into the black market. Our goal is to ensure that adults in this province are equipped with the tools to make responsible decisions within the letter of the law.”

This is the first phase of public education, said Stephenson, and the ads will appear on social media, on buses and on billboards and in other places like public washrooms.

No rules have been established around edible cannabis products yet because they will not be legal as of Oct. 17.

“Edibles will still be illegal until the federal government makes a change. Currently they’re not scheduled under the federal legislation and so until they are scheduled as a legal product they cannot be produced for retail sale so if people want to make their own with legally purchased cannabis, that’s an option for them, but we certainly will be keeping a very close eye on the evolution towards legal edibles and you can be assured that we’ll be following up with that next year,” Stephenson said.

The LGCA is leaving education about the risks of driving while high to Manitoba Public Insurance.

“Getting behind the wheel is something that MPI has done quite a bit of work on and we have actually left that side of the information to Manitoba Public Insurance just as we do with drinking and driving,” Stephenson said.

Cullen said that the province has always felt that the federal government was rushing into legalization but that enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize people under the influence of marijuana and that he would be meeting with a company that manufactures devices to detect high drivers that day.

“We certainly intend to have these devices available for police hopefully by the Oct 17 deadline,” Cullen said.

A second phase of the public education campaign that will launch just before marijuana is legalized will focus on helping those who use marijuana to manage their risk.

“Cannabis strength has actually increased significantly since people may have tried it in the 1970s,” Stephenson said. “We’re actually requiring all retail cannabis stores in the province to undergo a mandatory training with us and part of that is explaining to people what the different levels are in terms of safety and what the risks are. People are showing up in emergency rooms in other jurisdictions having tried cannabis edibles and so that’s another aspect of the messaging people will see once we roll out the second phase.”

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