Manitoba cautious about cannabis, teasing ban on public use and launching safety campaign

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Despite Manitoba being known for its more open cannabis laws, its government is planning to ban recreational consumption in public places as it also rolls out a safety campaign for edibles.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Tuesday that the Progressive Conservative government will introduce a bill to ban any public use of recreational cannabis before mid-December, when edibles, extracts and topicals are expected to become available in retail stores.

The current law only lists smoking and vaping.

“To prohibit consumption in public, I think, prevents that concept of having cannabis being a normal, run-of-the-mill, everyday product. It’s just not a very good message to send to our youth,” Cullen told the Canadian Press.

While provinces like Saskatchewan and New Brunswick put in similar bans at the start of legalization, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister didn’t realize oils, capsules and other non-smoking forms of the drug could be available before edibles.

Manitoba’s “Know My Cannabis Limits” campaign

The plans to crack down on public recreational use also come on the heels of a new safety campaign to raise awareness about how edibles differ from other cannabis products.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, the province’s regulator, is spending roughly $450,000 on pamphlets and videos ads with various warnings.

“Our focus is always … on providing information to encourage and improve public and consumer safety,” Kristianne Dechant, the authority’s executive director, told the Canadian Press.

A screen capture from Manitoba’s new cannabis safety campaign. LGCA - supplied

Edibles will be harder to detect for officers conducting roadside tests because of how the liver processes THC.

But Graham Miner, director of Prince Edward Island’s highway safety division with the Ministry of Transportation, doesn’t think that will be the biggest challenge.

“The bigger concern will be — will the use of cannabis become larger now than the number of those who report smoking it?”

Edibles may be less stigmatized because there’s no smoking required, attracting more users.

James Wigmore, a forensic toxicologist, said the federal government needs more campaigns like Manitoba’s. “It’s almost a totally different drug,” Wigmore said. “That’s the reason why they haven’t done edibles right away … but we haven’t done a good job of educating and advertising to the public.”

He points to the hour-long wait for effects to start, which can last up to 12 hours and be more psychoactive.

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