Moving on and marijuana

As this week marks the inaugural meetings for the new municipal councils that will serve local communities for the next four years, we think it is an important time to thank returning members for their ongoing service.

We sometimes lament politicians griping about their pay (which is generous), but serving on council can be a thankless job. While egos and ethos can appear to take centre stage, in our experience, most mayors and councillors are genuinely interested in doing what’s best for their community.

Of course, it is also important to recognize the accomplishments of those members of council not returning for another term. With the exception of one individual, whose disappearing act would make Polkaroo jealous, those defeated in October have continued to serve the electorate and conduct themselves with class, despite going through what I’m sure is a very tough time.

For those fortunate enough to return to the council table, the work starts almost immediately, with no shortage of tough decisions – not the least of which will be budgets and marijuana sales and bylaws.

Speaking of marijuana, we think it is important to remind everyone to remain calm. Judging from the letters in this newspaper, and from what we hear anecdotally in the community, the issue of cannabis is a polarizing one in Wellington County. It seems local residents are either adamantly opposed to cannabis sales, likening the drug to an evil scourge, or they claim it’s a harmless cure-all for pretty much everything that ails you.

The reality, of course, lies somewhere in the middle, but no one wants to let facts get in the way of a good argument.

Are there legitimate concerns about people driving impaired and with the difficulties facing police in quickly determining one’s level of drug impairment? Unfortunately, yes there are – serious ones. Should we be worried about making it easier for young people to access cannabis (despite the government’s claim legalization will do the opposite)? Of course we should. Is it right that cannabis stores can be located within 150 metres of schools or that people may have to deal with secondhand marijuana smoke in public areas? Obviously not.

It’s perfectly understandable if local councils want to opt out of cannabis sales, but to suggest this one issue will destroy Canadian society, turn users into drug-addled criminals, cause a mental health epidemic and/or transform our towns into havens for addicts, is ludicrous.

Ironically, the most ardent supporters of these doomsday Reefer Madness predictions are often those who have never tried cannabis yet fully embrace the sale/consumption of another potentially harmful psychoactive substance: alcohol.

One could make a strong case that alcohol is far more harmful to individuals and society than cannabis, but this whole legal marijuana thing is new, so we get it.

Let’s all just simmer down, move forward and deal with the potential fallout as best we can.