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Legal pot FAQ: Your burning questions answered

DILSHAD BURMAN | posted Thursday, Jun 21st, 2018

Oct. 17 is officially the day recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada.

With legalization come new rules governing everything ranging from where you can use pot to how it will be marketed and distributed.

In the run up to decriminalization day, CityNews asked viewers and readers to send in their concerns about navigating the changes. We then reached out to experts in the field to weigh in.

Pam Kaufman, assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and Brad Poulos, lecturer at Ryerson University answer your burning questions.

NOTE: The questions and answers below have been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Q: Who controls the restrictions on advertising legal pot and will they be similar to those on tobacco products?

Poulos: The federal government determines all the rules on advertising and other forms of promotional items.

Kaufman: In Ontario, the only place that will be allowed to sell cannabis is the Ontario Cannabis Store which will be subject to government rules. These rules are still being worked out.

 

Q: Will pot have similar restrictions as those imposed on tobacco products, like warning labels and health advisories?

Poulos: Similar but still different to satisfy the differing needs of the products and industries. There will be warning labels similar to tobacco, and severe restrictions on packaging, limiting the ability of the producers to build their brands.

Kaufman: It is likely that products will be sold in plain packages with warning labels.

Q: Can pot advertising be geared towards youth and children by using, for example, a cartoon character?

Poulos: No. Anything appealing to youth, or implying that use of cannabis is cool or glamourous, or that it brings excitement, vitality, or daring will be allowed. Neither are the use of cartoon characters, celebrity endorsements, or a person, character or animal (real or fictional).

Kaufman: The proposed federal Cannabis Act does not allow the promotion of cannabis (or a cannabis accessory or service). This would include advertising that appeals to young persons, such as the use of a cartoon character.

Q: Will the rules governing pot use in public spaces be similar to those governing smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol?

Poulos: More or less. This will be down to the municipal level in some cases so will vary widely by province and city or town.
In Ontario, while there could be municipal variance, the basic rules are that you may only smoke it in your home or property, and that you may not consume cannabis in any public place, workplace, or vehicle.

Kaufman: You will technically not be allowed to smoke cannabis in public places or parks or while walking down the street.

Q: Will smoking pot in public result in a ticket or fines if caught?

Poulos: The police will now have the ability to ticket someone who is using cannabis in public.

Kaufman: The penalty for using cannabis in public is up to $1000 for a first offense and up to $5000 for subsequent offenses.

Q: Is it true that those living in apartments or condos cannot grow or smoke pot?

Poulos: According to the Ontario regulations, as they currently stand, that is true. For medical cannabis, one can get an exemption from such rules.

Kaufman: You will be able to grow up to four cannabis plants per residence (not per person). However, if you live in a multi-unit building like an apartment or condo, whether you can grow cannabis or smoke it on the premises depends on your building’s rules or lease agreement.

Q: Can a landlord refuse to rent to a tenant if they want to grow pot on the premises?

Poulos: Yes, and they can insert clauses in the lease preventing using or growing cannabis in the premises.

Kaufman: Landlords can set their own rules about whether this is allowed in their building.

 

Visit this page often as we continue to update this list and have your questions answered.

Send your questions to us on Twitter: @CityNews or our Facebook Page: CityNews Toronto

No regulated response times for patient alarms at Ont. nursing homes

Cristina Howorun | posted Thursday, Jun 21st, 2018

It’s a jarring noise — a constant alarm sounding off — warning of a patient in distress.

It’s a sound that Nellie DeJong says she often hears when visiting her mother at Maple Manor Nursing Home in Tillsonburg, about a two-hour drive from Toronto.

“I actually had heard the alarms going and I timed it and it was 25-30 minutes before the alarm was answered,” DeJong said.

DeJong became so frustrated with the slow response time that she videotaped a walk through the halls of the long-term care home. The video, only thirty seconds long, shows no staff and very few residents in the halls while the alarm is sounding.

“I have grave concerns over my own mother’s personal care,” she said.

She also questions whether a quicker response to an alarm could’ve prevented a death there earlier this month.

“I absolutely believe that. I absolutely believe that. I believe it was a poor response time.”

Danny MacNeill, 69, died at the home after he allegedly became trapped in his bed rail.

His son, Kevin, wonders if a slow response time to his bedside alarm may have contributed to his father’s tragic death as well.

“Every time I was there it worked fine, when I helped him get up to get dressed it would go off. And just that day it went off and nobody got to him in a quick time. I mean, I don’t know exactly the time, they’re trying to figure it out. That’s a major factor,” Kevin tells CityNews.

Marlene Van Ham, the home’s administrator, declined to comment on the specifics of that incident, saying that it’s still under investigation.

CityNews repeatedly asked what the average response time or best practices were for responding to patient alarms, and she again declined comment.

According to regulations under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, every home is required to have a resident-to staff communication system that:

  • can be easily seen, accessed and used by residents, staff and visitors at all times;
  • is on at all times;
  • allows calls to be cancelled only at the point of activation;
  • is available at each bed, toilet, bath and shower location used by residents;
  • is available in every area accessible by residents;
  • clearly indicates when activated where the signal is coming from; and
  • in the case of a system that uses sound to alert staff, is properly calibrated so that the level of sound is audible to staff.

 

According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, “there is no requirement in the Long-Term Care Homes Act and Ontario Regulation 79/10 that specifies a standard time for a response to a patient alarm.”

“The Residents’ Bill of Rights as outlined in s.3(1) of the LTCHA, says no resident is to be neglected by the licensee or staff and has the right to be cared for in a manner consistent with his or her needs,” ministry spokesperson David Jensen told CityNews in an email.

“The ministry expects LTC home staff to respond to alerts/calls in a timely manner to ensure the care needs of the resident are met.

LTC homes would have their own internal policies and procedures on this matter.”

“That shocks me. It should be addressed immediately, You don’t know what’s happening, ” DeJong says.

“They could be choking, something could be going on and there’s nobody there. Somebody should be sitting with them at all times. And if there’s an alarm going off, they need to address that.”

Recreational marijuana to become legal Oct. 17

News Staff and The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Jun 21st, 2018

Recreational marijuana will become legal in Canada as of Oct. 17.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons, which is expected to rise for the summer break after Wednesday.

He says the government has delayed the legalization schedule in order to give the provinces and territories more time to implement their regimes.

The federal government is reminding Canadians that up until Oct. 17, pot remains illegal in this country until the Cannabis Act goes into effect.

“I urge all Canadians to continue to follow the existing law until the Cannabis Act comes into force,” Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould told a news conference Wednesday in the foyer of the House of Commons.

The government’s companion legislation on impaired driving is also expected to pass soon, said Wilson-Raybould, but she added that driving under the influence of drugs has always been – and will remain – against the law in Canada.

Bill C-46, a companion bill that Wilson-Raybould predicts will give Canada the strongest impaired-driving rules in the world, will also become law “in the near future,” she said.

Until then, “I would like to also remind the public that driving while impaired by drugs is, and will remain, illegal.”

It was clear, however, that there are still more questions than answers about what Canada’s nascent legal-pot landscape will look like – how police will test motorists, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work.

Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the federal bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to end its opposition to certain aspects of the federal bill, most notably the plan to permit Canadians to cultivate marijuana plants at home. A proposed Senate amendment would have prevented legal challenges to their constitutional right to do so.

Wilson-Raybould called the legislation – which still requires royal assent to become law – “transformative” and predicted it would protect young people and keep organized crime out of the pot market.

“C-45 marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis,” she said.

“It leaves behind a failed model of prohibition, a model that has made organized crime rich and young people vulnerable…. our shift in policy will protect youth from the health and safety risks of cannabis and keep those same criminals from profiting from its production, distribution and sale.”

Senate passes cannabis bill

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

Canadians will be able to legally purchase and consume recreational marijuana by mid-September at the latest after the Senate voted Tuesday to lift almost a century-old prohibition on cannabis.

Senators voted 52-29, with two abstentions, to pass Bill C-45, after seven months of study and debate.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said the provinces will need two to three months after the bill is passed before they’ll be ready to implement the new legalized cannabis regime.

“We have seen in the Senate tonight a historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition of cannabis in this country, 90 years of needless criminalization, 90 years of a just-say-no approach to drugs that hasn’t worked,” said independent Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the upper house.

Canada is the first industrialized country to legalize cannabis nationwide.

“I’m proud of Canada today. This is progressive social policy,” Dean said.

However, Dean and other senators stressed that the government is taking a very cautious, prudent approach to this historic change. Cannabis will be strictly regulated, with the objective of keeping it out of the hands of young people and displacing the thriving black market in cannabis controlled by organized crime.

“What the government’s approach has been is, yes, legalization but also strict control,” said Sen. Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate.
“That does not in any way suggest that it’s now party time.”

Conservative senators remained resolutely opposed to legalization, however, and predicted passage of C-45 will not meet the government’s objectives.

“The impact is we’re going to have all those involved in illegal marijuana peddling right now becoming large corporations and making a lot of money and they’re going to be doing it at the expense of vulnerable people in this country,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, predicting young people will have more – not less – access.

“When you normalize the use of marijuana and you’re a young person and you had certain reservations because of the simple fact that it was illegal, there’s, I believe, a propensity to have somebody be more inclined to use it.”

But Dean countered that the Conservatives have been making the same argument since the bill landed in the Senate seven months ago, regardless of what they heard from expert witnesses. And he suggested that’s because they received marching orders from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to do everything in their power to delay or block legalization.

“That tells me that maybe they haven’t been open to learning and listening the way that other senators have in this place,” he said of the Conservatives’ unchanging position on the bill.

By contrast, Dean said many independent senators were initially opposed to or uncertain about legalization but changed their minds after hearing from more than 200 expert witnesses who testified before five different Senate committees that examined the bill minutely.

The Conservatives are the last remaining openly partisan group in the Senate, to which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to name only non-partisan, independent senators recommended by an arm’s-length advisory body.

Senators last week approved almost four dozen amendments to C-45. The government accepted 27 of them and tweaked two others. But it rejected 13 amendments.
Among the rejected amendments was one which would have authorized provinces to prohibit home cultivation of marijuana if they choose.

Quebec and Manitoba have already decided to ban home-grown pot, even though the bill specifies that individuals can grow up to four plants per dwelling. The purpose of the Senate’s amendment was to prevent legal challenges to their constitutional right to do so.

Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan attempted Tuesday to have the amendment reinstated in the bill – which would have meant the bill would have to be bounced back to the House of Commons and could have set the stage for a protracted parliamentary battle between the two houses of Parliament.

But senators voted 45-35 not to insist on that change.

Sen. Yen Pau Woo, leader of the independent group of senators, said C-45 was “a bit of a stress test” for the new, less partisan Senate.

Humber engineering student ‘stole the show’ with dance moves at convocation ceremony

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

After all those years of note taking, studying and staying up all night to cram for exams, graduation day can feel a bit anticlimactic.

Unless you’re Tuan Ngo.

The loose-jointed Mechanical Engineering student engineered some awe-inspiring dance moves when it was his turn to collect his hard-earned diploma.

Humber College tweeted out video of Ngo (aka Jerry) dancing up a storm at last Friday’s convocation ceremony, saying that he “stole the show.”

When his name was called, Ngo exhibited some 80s break-dance moves, and followed them up with a Usain Bolt-worthy dab.

He also greeted the presenter with a bear hug before dancing off the stage, diploma in hand.

Associate Dean of Engineering Vincent Shaikh gave “Jerry” some props on Twitter, saying the school would miss his “energy and enthusiasm.”

Green renovation rebates funded through cap and trade system cancelled

The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

A series of rebates offered by the Ontario government for energy-efficient renovations has been cancelled.

A post on the GreenOn.ca website says several residential and commercial rebate programs, including those for ground source heat pumps and smart thermostats for homes, are now closed.

The site says, however, that rebates will be honoured for homeowners who submit an application by Sept. 30 or who have a signed work agreement with a participating contractor for work to be completed by Aug. 31.

The rebate program was announced last year and funded through proceeds from Ontario’s cap-and-trade program through a provincial agency called the Green Ontario Fund.

Its cancellation comes after Ontario’s incoming premier said he would carry out his campaign promise to scrap the cap-and-trade system and fight federal rules that would impose a carbon tax on provinces without their own carbon pricing system.

Doug Ford, who is expected to be sworn in as premier on June 29, said last week that getting rid of cap and trade would be his first order of business once the legislature resumes.

PC Spokesperson Jeff Silverstein told 680 News this cancellation was Ford delivering on his promise.

“Doug Ford received a clear mandate from the people of Ontario to cancel Kathleen Wynne’s cap-and-trade carbon tax and the slush fund that was paid for by the carbon tax,” said Silverstein. “Doug Ford is delivering on his promise to put more money back into people’s pockets.”

The New Democrats, who will form the province’s official Opposition, slammed Ford for the cancellation of the rebate program saying it was “beyond irresponsible to scrap clean air and climate-change initiatives with no plan to replace them.”

Ontario has made close to $3 billion in a series of cap-and-trade auctions since the system was introduced by the Liberals last year.

Tory says subway barriers could cost ‘well north’ of $1B

News Staff | posted Wednesday, Jun 20th, 2018

A day after a man was allegedly pushed in front of a moving train at Bloor-Yonge Station, Mayor John Tory said he was awaiting the results of a TTC study into the feasibility of erecting safety barriers in the city’s subway stations.

Tory said he voted in favour of the study, but admitted that the potentially staggering costs of retrofitting the city’s aging stations could pose a problem.

“Always the issue that looms out there, and I don’t mean to bring this back to money when you are trying to save lives, but in the end this is a huge undertaking … the question would arise how we would pay for it,” he said.

“This would cost, by most estimates … well north of a billion dollars.”

Despite the hefty price tag, Tory said the barriers are worth considering.

“I will await that report because I think when we are losing lives, we owe it to the city … to take a really serious look at it.”

The TTC’s Brad Ross told CityNews the study is expected to be completed by 2020 and would probe engineering and design challenges, as well as associated costs.

“It’s something that other transit systems around the world do,” Ross said. “(But) to retrofit a system as old as the TTC’s is a significant amount of work and a significant amount of money.”

Coun. Joe Mihevc, who sits on the TTC Board, touted the many benefits of the barriers, while noting they would cost around $10 million to $15 million per station.

“There are many advantages,” he stressed. “One: you protect lives.

“It stops all those operational difficulties we have … When you hear the conductor saying we have had to stop service because of things at track level.

“It would make our system up to 20 per cent more efficient. So there’s lots of good reasons to do it.”

Man, 57, charged with first-degree-murder in Yonge subway station death

News Staff | posted Tuesday, Jun 19th, 2018

Toronto police have charged a 57-year old with first-degree murder in the Yonge subway station death.

Homicide Detective Rob North said police were called to the station at around 10:15 a.m. and a man suffering from serious injuries. He died later at hospital.

The suspect was arrested at the scene and North said no other suspects are being sought. He has not been identified.

North said they have viewed the CCTV footage from inside the subway station during the incident.

Police are alleging both the suspect and the victim were waiting for the eastbound train when there is a brief interaction between the two before the victim is pushed in front of the train. There was no audio on the video.

Police say they are still trying to identify the victim, but say he is an Asian man believed to be in his 50s or early 60s with white hair. He was wearing blue running shoes, a white baseball cap and shorts at the time of his death. Police previously believed the victim was in his 20s.

North asked anyone who knows someone matching that description who they haven’t been able to get in touch with, please contact police immediately.

Police say there is no connection between the suspect and the victim.

North said he wanted to address the 7 to 8 people who police believe were direct witnesses to this murder based on CCTV footage. He is encouraging them to come forward to help the investigation.

He adds if anyone is struggling with witnessing this incident, they are welcome to contact victim services.

The suspect will appear on Tuesday in court at 10 a.m.

HOMICIDE ON TTC A RARE OCCURRENCE

When asked about past homicide investigations on the TTC, Ross said the “last time someone was intentionally pushed … in front of a subway, was in 1997 at Dundas station.”

Charlene Minkowski, 23, was hit by a train on Sept. 25, 1997.

Herbert Cheong, 41 at the time, was charged with first-degree murder, but eventually confessed to a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Cheong, a diagnosed schizophrenic, eventually received a long term sentence, with no parole possibility for 15 years. He told the court he’d been kicked out of his rooming house that day and was angry – so he decided to take his rage out on a perfect stranger.

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