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mike bellai

Saugeen Shores Police Chief Mike Bellai was one of four speakers at the “Weeding out the Myths” discussion panel held at the Plex October 3 ahead of the October 17 cannabis legalization date. From left, Jason Weppler from Grey Bruce Health Services, Police Chief Mike Bellai and Pharmacist Jin Wei.

Hub Staff

With the October 17 legalization date approaching the Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy of Grey Bruce (CDASGB) put together a panel of four local experts for a presentation at the Plex October 3, one of five stops on their “Weeding out the Myths” tour across the two counties, with approximately 40 in attendance.

The legalization of marijuanna across Canada means different things for each province with new information and rules still to be announced in Ontario. Currently in Ontario the legalization of cannabis means that adults 19 years of age and older can purchase and legally hold 30 grams of cannabis (one ounce), will be able to share (not sell) with anyone 19 years of age and older, and will be able to grow up to four plants at their residence. Once legalization date occurs cannabis can only be legally purchased from the Ontario Cannabis Store and can be used in concurrence with the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

Saugeen Shore Police Chief Mike Bellai was one of the four panelists at the information session. He said there is a lot of confusion around legalization and that he along with staff have been caught off guard by a lot of recent announcements.

Chief Bellai focused his time on the panel stressing the importance of driving sober and said that people driving high is a huge concern for the police force. “It’s important to know that it does impair a person's cognitive functions, could cause delusional thoughts and impairs your ability operate a vehicle,” said Bellai October 3. “Cannabis slows down your reaction time and when you're in a motor vehicle it’s all about that reaction time," he said.

Bellai then stated that four people in Canada are killed every day from impaired driving and he doesn’t anticipate that number to go down once cannabis is made legal. He provided statistics from Colorado in the United States which saw recreational use become legal in 2014.

Bellai noted that in Colorado in 2013, 10 percent of victims of fatal collisions tested positive for THC. In 2016 that number rose to 20 percent. "More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else,” said the Police Chief. Reading statistics, Bellai said of the those killed in impaired driving collisions in 2014, 52 percent had no alcohol in their system, by 2016 the number has grown to 69 percent with an average age between 35 and 40.

He then said the force will be relying on “good old fashioned police work” come legalization day. The Saugeen Shores department has invested money and many hours into a Drug Recognition Officer (DRO) who “has the ability to form the opinion if someone is impaired by drug." The force will also be trained in a standardized field sobriety test (SFST).

The Chief noted that the Federal Centre of Forensic Science will have an oral test that will be able to test for marijuana as well as six other drugs but that that has not been made available yet. Saugeen Shores Police have also signed a shared-service agreement with other divisions across Grey and Bruce for use of their DRO and vice-versa if a local one is not available.

It was stressed throughout the Weeding out the Myths talk that use and possession of cannabis by anyone under the age of 19 is illegal and will be enforced.

Speaking to the effects of marijuana use was Dave Roy, Director of Addiction Services from the Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce and Jin Wei, a pharmacist from Brown's Garden Pharmacy in Walkerton.

Beyond the legal ramifications of underaged use, both enforced the mental health risk that can come from using cannabis at a young age with Wei suggesting that using under the age of 25 can cause damage to the human brain. “It really does affect development," he said. "Think of it as a house, all the walls are put up but the wiring still needs to be done...some lightbulbs might not light up.” Wei also suggested there is an association between cannabis use and psychosis.

Roy addressed the parents, grandparents and guardians in the room. “During these very delicate developmental years (14 to 25) there’s so much going on in the brain that can be derailed by the use of substance, including cannabis," he said, adding that the prefrontal cortex, which impacts decision making, is the last part of the brain to develop. The social worker suggested maintaining a positive relationship with youth. “We want them to come and talk with us and trust us. What we find as far as communication goes is that what works with adults, works with kids too," he said.

Roy added that it's very important to have an open dialogue with young people. "That we keep the lines of communication open because they need that support as they navigate these waters," he said. "We want to let them know that we are open and available to talk with them and hear what they have to say."

Roy advised parents to be authoritative but not authoritarian, to come from a harm reduction approach and be honest with their children about their fears and concerns.

“You can’t just say to them, ‘Because I said so’... that’s not enough we have to have a dialogue,” said Roy. “You want a have a discussion, you want to have a dialogue you want to engage in a bit of a debate," he said, adding that you want to train them how to express themselves and let them know that you're respectful of what they have to say.

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jin wei

Jin Wei, a pharmacist from Brown's Guardian Pharmacy in Walkerton, educated those present on medical benefits and harms that come from using marijuana.

dave roy

Dave Roy (right), Director of Addiction Services from the Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce, during the “Weeding out the Myths” panel at the Plex October 3.