Although the B.C. government has set 19 as the minimum age to purchase, sell or consume non-medical cannabis, School District 91 anticipates that the legalization will lead to “shifting attitudes” – with students assuming it’s safe to use cannabis because it’s legal. (Lakes District News file photo)

School District 91 preparing for cannabis legalization

Village of Burns Lake consults residents on far they’d like retail outlets to be away from schools

School District 91 (Nechako Lakes) has been preparing for the legalization of non-medical cannabis, which is just a week away.

Although the B.C. government has set 19 as the minimum age to purchase, sell or consume non-medical cannabis, the school district anticipates that the legalization may lead to “shifting attitudes” – with students assuming it’s safe to use cannabis because it’s legal.

According to School District 91 Superintendent of Schools Manu Madhok, the school district also anticipates that students may have increased access to cannabis due to use in their homes, and that students may “self-medicate” with non-medical cannabis instead of reaching out for the medical assistance they need.

These were some of the concerns raised by Madhok in a letter to Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach dated Aug. 3, 2018.

Madhok says Village of Burns Lake bylaws need to support existing school district policies, which are clear and consistent around the prohibited use of drugs and alcohol in and around schools.

“There is a growing and compelling body of research detailing the potential negative impacts of cannabis use in youth under the age of 25, and so our overall education and prevention efforts need to be coordinated and offered consistently across all our schools and communities,” writes Madhok.

In light of Bill C-45, the school district plans to strengthen relations with local health and law enforcement partners to deliver prevention programming, and to continue educational programs in high schools that outline the realities of cannabis use, including driving under its influence.

As a major employer in the region, School District 91 has also been updating its policies with regard to impairment in the workplace.

And when it comes to the location of cannabis retail outlets in the Burns Lake area, Madhok asks that “common sense be applied” to this decision, and that stores are not located within view or proximity to schools or walking routes to schools.

The Village of Burns Lake consulted local residents at the Lakeview Mall last Friday, asking for their opinions with regard to regulation of cannabis retail outlets within the village.

Residents were asked questions such as which village zones they feel would be appropriate for the sale of non-medical cannabis; what would be their preferred distance from schools and parks; and what would be their preferred cost of a business license.

Mayor Beach says village staff will now compile the information gathered and report back to council.

According to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, keeping cannabis out of reach of children and youth is a top priority. Selling cannabis to minors will continue to be a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in jail. That’s in addition to provincial penalties of up to $50,000, jail time of up to six months or both.

The province has also prohibited cannabis smoking and vaping in areas where children and youth commonly gather – sports fields, skate parks, schools, provincial, regional and municipal parks and playgrounds – and banned youth under 19 from entering cannabis stores, even with an adult.


 

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