By Laura Broadley,
The Liberals’ promise to legalize marijuana has its champions and its critics. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, Karen Vecchio, MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, wants to hear from you.
“I really want to hear from the public. I know there’s lots of people who are supportive of this, that think that it’s been long time coming. There are other people who have some great concerns with it. And I want to make sure we hear from the right people,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio is holding a town hall meeting on June 15 in St. Thomas to discuss the Liberal government’s legislation that would see marijuana legalized in July 2018.
“This legislation came back out in April and right now within the House of Commons we’re going to be starting this, we’re going to be having debate on it … And I think within the legislation I personally see some things that need to be worked on,” Vecchio said.
One of Vecchio’s concerns is surrounding youth and their ability to access marijuana. She said she wants marijuana education to go hand-in-hand with the legalization. There was money in the 2017 budget for marijuana education over five years, but Vecchio said she sees that as being backwards considering marijuana is set to be legalized next year.
Vecchio said her other issue is with people who are impaired by marijuana getting behind the wheel of a car.
“We have to recognize that cannabis affects people very, very differently and it can’t be measured like alcohol,” Vecchio said.
The town hall meeting will have four panelists that include: Dr. Chris Mackie from the Middlesex health unit; Lisa Gunn, a criminal lawyer in St. Thomas; a member of the St. Thomas police; and someone that deals with social work or addiction.
“I think it’s really important that we have this conversation. Get rid of some of the myths that may be out there … regarding not only the legislation but cannabis so that we have an educated conversation. I’ll be taking all of that information back and providing it both to the minister of health and the minister of justice,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio said she agrees with the NDP’s position on the decriminalization of marijuana.
“I’m not totally for legalization, but I’m definitely for decriminalization of marijuana. But we have to make sure that we get it right, and my concern is that we’re going to have legislation but we’re not going to have all of the … supports that we need with this legislation,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio said there is a lot of responsibility being downloaded on the province and municipalities.
Vecchio, the official opposition critic for Families, Children and Social Development, has been outspoken in the past about what she sees as the Liberals’ lenient position on drugs. In particular, she’s spoken out about the Liberals’ drug strategy that would make it easier for municipalities to open supervised injection sites for drug users.
“I think the community must have a say. If there’s going to be an injection site put into a community we need to make sure that the community members are aware of it and it’s the best place for it as well,” Vecchio said. “We need to have wraparound services. So, it can’t be just about going in there and being able to have a safe injection site.”
IF YOU GO
What: MP Karen Vecchio community town hall on the legalization of marijuana
When: Thurs. June 15, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: CASO Station, 750 Talbot St., St. Thomas