April 25, 2018

Dear Canadian Public School Board Associations,

The federal government’s cannabis legalization agenda has fallen short on ensuring that our youth, road users and communities are protected from the hazards of legal marijuana consumption. Rather than making public health and safety a priority, Bill C-45 emphasizes aggressive commercialization of a harmful drug. In turn, provincial regulatory frameworks to sell and distribute cannabis have been hastily set up according to the federal government’s rushed process, which has resulted in further health and safety deficiencies and a patchwork of inconsistent rules across the country. The bottom line is that cannabis legalization and commercialization is going too far, too fast, and public health and safety will pay the price.

We stand with public health experts, healthcare professionals, community leaders, parents and law enforcement who have raised important concerns about the federal legalization scheme, but have been ignored thus far. Ultimately, communities – not politicians - will have to contend with the negative impact brought on by rushed legalization and commercialization: more drug-impaired driving; easier access to cannabis for youth; increased strain on mental health services and counseling; higher costs for enforcement of new laws and regulations with vague promises of new resources (but no guarantee that the black market will fade); and evolving challenges to manage the consumption of a new product that is toxic, addictive and dangerous.

We are contacting you, as representatives of your respective school boards in order to help facilitate a more balanced and widespread discussion regarding the framework for cannabis legalization with the goal of improving public health and safety, particularly for youth. We firmly believe that schools and school board representatives have an important role in achieving this goal. Your expertise can infuse the conversation with a greater understanding from the perspective of community leaders who have dedicated their lives to serving the interests of youth education.

As was recently indicated by the Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, we believe that there has been a significant absence of local input in the matter of where legal recreational cannabis stores ought to be located, specifically, their proximity to schools. We believe that your respective input on the matter is crucial toward building and promoting a safe and reasonable legalization framework that reduces harm affecting our children. The lack of consultation of education experts and elected representatives regarding retail access and overall safety protocols has led to a chaotic process that enables easy access to cannabis stores by underage youth. As such, we have decided to call on you to help steer the conversation into a direction that would improve the health and safety deficits of the current legalization model.

One measure that we believe would be useful is to compel the provincial bodies overseeing and regulating cannabis retail to publicly consult with local school board representatives before they permit the opening of an outlet in the community. You may have other ideas on how to reduce youth access to legal cannabis in your community, and our group would be pleased to give those a platform.

This is the first time since the repeal of alcohol Prohibition that a harmful product has been legalized for wide public consumption. There is a way to do this right, but we only have one chance to get it right. The current framework poses great risks to public safety according to the experts.

We believe that the parents whom you represent would want you to take the best available measures to mitigate the risks of cannabis legalization and commercialization, including reducing access.

Yours truly,

Brian Patterson