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Trudeau: Canada is ready as recreational pot use becomes legal Wednesday

National Public Radio

Politicians and police are saying Canada is all set to open the cannabis floodgates Wednesday as recreational pot goes legal. Here is what you need to know.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is ready. Speaking on Parliament Hill Monday, Trudeau said the government has worked for years to prepare for a legalized regime, adding the current approach to cannabis is not protecting young people or communities from organized crime.

Conservative House leader Candice Bergen is not convinced, saying the government rushed legalization.

However, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction said the Trudeau government has worked really hard for the last two-and-a-half years to craft a comprehensive regulatory framework for the legalization of pot. Bill Blair said impaired driving has been a problem in this country since 1925 and police now have the tools they need to deal with it.

Meantime, the head of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said there will not be one overall approach to how law enforcement handles the challenges of legal pot among officers. Police have faced questions about their readiness for the historic change in the law. Adam Palmer -- who is also Vancouver's police chief -- said while Canadians may be entering uncharted waters, police have been navigating drug-impaired drivers and illicit grow-ops for years.

Palmer said it is "highly unlikely" there will be raids of unlicensed pot shops Wednesday and the association will support any extra federal measures to keep cannabis products out of the hands of the black market.

The OPP is warning its officers that they must report "fit for duty" as cannabis legalization looms. In a release Monday night, provincial police said they are committed to maintaining a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. Commissioner Vince Hawkes is quoted as saying that will enable the OPP to "continuously provide effective support" to the communities it serves.

Parks Canada said visitors should do their research on cannabis before going to a national park because the rules vary in each  province and territory. Officials saidthe federal agency's approach to recreational cannabis when it becomes legal Wednesday will be consistent with how it treats the possession and consumption of alcohol, that is, all relevant provincial, territorial or municipal legislation and regulations will apply.

Spokeswoman Marie-Helene Brisson said Parks Canada treats individual campsites as a home away from home so cannabis will be permitted. However, she said it will not be allowed in the common areas of campgrounds, which include playgrounds, kitchen shelters, washrooms or parking areas. Playgrounds throughout the park are off-limits for cannabis use, but rules for other public areas will be based on the legislation in each province.

In Halifax, a sweeping smoking ban is now a reality. City spokesman Brendan Elliott said its council determined the blanket prohibition was the best way to enforce a law to stop people smoking marijuana in public places.

The ban, instituted Monday, makes it illegal to smoke or vape nicotine and cannabis on municipal properties. The move puts the East Coast city in the vanguard of cities that want pot kept out of public areas.

As Canada is grappling with how to adjust when recreational marijuana becomes legal, a new study by McGill University researchers has found that driving under the influence of cannabis remains dangerous even five hours after use.

 The study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that subjects who consumed cannabis had difficulty performing certain manoeuvres and were at greater risk of crashing a vehicle.

Researchers recruited people aged 18 to 24 who were already recreational cannabis users. They were tested on a driving simulator at four stages: before inhaling, then one, three and five hours afterwards. 

Participants were able to perform simple driving tasks such as braking and steering, and even showed increased vigilance an hour after consumption. But when confronted with slightly more complicated scenarios -- including parking between two cars at a shopping centre, passing through an intersection or avoiding pedestrians and cyclists -- they had trouble.

An American cannabis producer is warning President Donald Trump that Canada is poised to dominate the North American marijuana industry unless the United States takes steps to eliminate barriers to financing and market capital south of the border.

Tuesday's full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, framed as a plea to the White House, warns the U.S. is "rapidly losing" its competitive advantage to Canada, where recreational pot is poised to become legal at midnight.

Derek Peterson, chairman and CEO of California-based Terra Tech Corp., says that even though cannabis production is legal in 31 states, many American firms have turned to capital markets north of the border in order to attract investment.

The ad also warns that Canadian firms have tapped into U.S. investor interest in order to raise and spend money to acquire American cannabis assets. Peterson says as a result, what should be one of America's "greatest economic drivers" is at risk of coming under foreign control unless states are allowed to enact their own cannabis legislation.

As of Wednesday, Canada will be the first G7 member to greenlight legal recreational pot.

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