Washington governor reassures B.C. ahead of cannabis legalization but advises more regulation

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As marijuana legalization looms Oct. 17, British Columbians can look south of the border to Washington for a model of success six years after its own legalization date, says that state’s governor. On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan and Gov. Jay Inslee held a bilateral meeting to collaborate on a host of cross-border issues, including climate change and a possible high-speed rail linking B.C., Oregon and Washington state. After the conference, the pair addressed the impending Canadian legalization of cannabis.

Given that Washington legalized cannabis in 2012, Inslee assured the Canadian public that the “fears” of skeptics have not been realized. “We have not seen crimes associated with it, we’ve not had adverse health effects. There’s not a significant increase of youth usage, and that’s in part because we’ve been talking to youth about that issue,” he told reporters.

However, Inslee said, there needs to be “more research” on impaired driving related to cannabis use. “We have not seen any specific increase in usage that’s tied to increased traffic accidents. We have seen increase usage in general of people who’ve had some chemical in their blood, principally alcohol, barbiturates, methamphetamine and heroine.”

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Horgan echoed that enforcement on impaired driving involving cannabis would be the “highest priority” for B.C. officials. From a health-and-safety perspective, Inslee said legalization has been a “success.” Still, he advises B.C. to implement a well-regulated system, limiting the number of licences for vendors and preventing edibles from getting into the hands of children.

As for travellers being banned from entering the United States because cannabis is illegal under U.S. law, Horgan said “that seems odd to both of us” but it’s under federal jurisdiction. In September, a spokesperson for federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told StarMetro that “cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law. Canadians who wish to enter the United States or any other country have to adhere to its laws.” Goodale has raised the issue in virtually every meeting he’s had with his American counterparts, the spokesperson continued, including the previous and current secretaries of Homeland Security. From those conversations, he said, U.S. officials have indicated they do not plan on changing border protocols after cannabis is legalized in Canada.

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