PEI woman takes public engagement into her own hands

Annie MacEachern says she wants to see PEI putting more effort into hearing from Islanders and experts on cannabis legalization

Annie MacEachern says she was frustrated by the provincial government of Prince Edward Island’s lack of public engagement around cannabis legalization, so she decided to hold some meetings herself.

While PEI released an online public survey at the end of August, the province has not engaged in any public debate on the issue like some other provinces. MacEachern said she was concerned that the public would be filling out the survey without enough information about legalization to make informed decisions, and she hoped the province would be more willing to engage the public to talk about the facts around legalization and what it will mean for PEI.

“Safe consumption and education on cannabis are the most important things to me. It really scares me that they put this out with no information,” says the 29 year old PEI native. She says more needs to be done to ensure that those who do end up selling cannabis, be it a public or private store, are properly educated, and that the public understands what they are buying.

“When you go into a liquor store you’re not going to have someone ask you what kind of night you’re looking to have, what kind of feelings you want to experience, what kind of therapeutic benefits you’re seeking when you go into the liquor store to grab your 12 pack or your bottle of wine.

“And in my experience, when I traveled out of province to places like Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Victoria, when I went into a dispensary and when I dealt with someone who is knowledgeable, they asked me those questions, they wanted to know why I was consuming and how I planned to consume, whether it was a joint, a pipe, a bong, a vaporizer, whether I wanted to go home and make my own edibles.

“The care and the knowledge that goes into the sales of cannabis when it’s done by someone who knows the product is much safer, in my opinion, than a public servant doing that at a liquor store or out of a similar model to a liquor store.”

MacEachern says she has an idea of what direction the province will take, which is to mimic provinces like Ontario and utilize their existing liquor control model in PEI. And while she says she would prefer to see a more diverse retail market, the key will be ensuring whoever sells it is properly trained.

“If the province chooses to go with a public model that replicates that of Ontario, which I think is very likely, I would at least like there to be a cannabis training program; I would like the hiring process to be done by a third party that can allow education of the products to happen before they just become available.”

MacEachern’s first meeting at National Access Cannabis drew about 50 people, while her meeting today brought in about 25 more, she says, with many staying behind to discuss policy.

“It’s a pretty diverse crowd. There was an older gentleman, there was young women like myself. I know a man who is a city councillor in a neighbouring town, there was a few women from city hall, there was a really wide variety of folks.”

She says the group has put together a list of concerns that they intend to present to the province.

“We are going to be providing a written submission to the provincial cannabis committee. We will be discussing the importance of fostering small business and craft cannabis in a province like Prince Edward Island that is very agriculturally rich and has the potential to really offer great tourism. And we are also going to be continuing to provide leading examples from places like Washington State and Colorado and Oregon, different parts of their legislation that have worked.”

PEI’s online survey is open until Sept. 30. MacEachern can be contacted via Facebook and Twitter.

Featured image via Nick Flood 

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