Fraser Ballantyne says there’s a normalization that’s going on in our community when it comes to marijuana, and it’s putting kids at risk.
Ballantyne is a Vancouver School Board Trustee with nearly 40 years experience in education, and he’s seen how drug use can derail a student’s education.
“Kids who are on pot are sidelined and are really limiting their future.”
Which is why he’s so outspoken about how the City of Vancouver is handling the proliferation of medical-marijuana dispensaries in the city.
City Hall created a bylaw last year which now requires pot shops to be located at least 300 metres from schools.
School trustees want to see that increased to 500 metres, but Ballantyne says the motion they passed last June has gained no traction with city hall.
Acknowledging the increased risk to students
The trustees also discussed others issues, such as mitigating addiction risks.
“We have significant concerns that these outlets could lead to an increase in use among our students.”
They proposed that a portion of any licensing fee, which is $30,000, be provided to the school board for educational purposes and addiction support services.
‘Made in Vancouver’ solution needed
Ballantyne, who is in favour of legalization, says the approach the city has taken with dispensaries has been based on the American approach — and won’t necessarily work for Vancouver.
“Why can’t we create our own model, with input from Bill Blair, for Vancouver specifically?”
Bill Blair is the former Toronto top cop now tasked with overseeing the new marijuana legislation to be tabled next spring.
In an interview with Global News last week, Blair said “Ottawa will only use revenue from sales or excise taxes on marijuana for crime prevention, addiction treatment, prevention and education.”
“My concern is that Bill Blair has been tapped on the shoulder to figure all this out,” says Ballantyne, “and here we are with a permissive attitude from city hall about breaking the law.”
Calling for a collaborative approach to regulation
Ballantyne wants to see professional service groups within the Vancouver community working together to explore perspectives on the regulation of marijuana and safe schools — rather than the city simply making up the rules as they go along — which may prove problematic as unlicensed pot shops vow to stay open despite the city’s April 29 deadline to close, or face enforcement.
“Now they’ve got a fight on their hands.”
In the meantime, the Vancouver School Board has made their view clear to City Hall — students need to be considered when making policies.