Story by Max Davis
With the world’s perspective changing on cannabis, Canada is one of the countries making legitimate headway into national legalization for recreational use. While there are manyreasons to be excited about this news, the Canadian government is being very cautious with how they are going to go about legalizing cannabis. So don’t head up north to try some of Canada’s best flower just yet; it won’t be legalized until at least spring of 2017.
As far as the schematics of getting cannabis grown, processed, regulated, and commercially sold, nothing is set in stone yet. Canadians are looking into building on how four states in the U.S., Colorado, Oregon, Alaskaand Washington—went about legalizing cannabis.
“It’s nice that those experiments are there for us to see what’s worked,” said Zach Walsh, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, who studies cannabis. “We’ll learn from those and, I think, because we’re looking at doing it federally and in a more organized way and maybe with a bit more prep time … we’ll take what’s worked from those models and make our own.” It is ahefty task, especially if they are going to keep track of marijuana products in a more careful way than the retail stores in Colorado and Washington have.
To completely understand something as complicated as nationally legalizing cannabis, their government has created the Task Force for Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. The Task Force will seek input on the design of a new system to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana. Their advice will be considered by the Canadian government as the new framework is developed.
The government will rely on them for a lot more, though, as they are partly responsible for keeping cannabis out of children’s hands, as well as keeping profits out of organized crime’s possession. The Task Force’s to-do list is endless; with developing the model for regulating the retail system, educating the public and schools about cannabis, and designing the laws to make minor possession obsolete, while still deterring and more severely punishing the major marijuana offences, their work is cut out for them.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is adamant about reducing harm with his nation’s legalization of cannabis. Trudeau said he wants to change the law for two reasons: one, providing more control over an improved point-of-sale system to better protect children from marijuana, and two, to take revenue away from organized crime. “I have no doubt that Canadians and entrepreneurs will be tremendously innovative in finding ways to create positive economic benefits from the legalization and control of marijuana, but our focus is on protecting kids and protecting our streets,” Trudeau said.
Even though it’s going to be legal soon, Trudeau is all business with cannabis. When asked about lighting up after legalization, he said, “I don’t think so. I’m not someone who has a history of using drugs. I lived in Whistler (British Columbia) for a few years, surrounded by friends who did, but it was never my thing.”
It’s interesting to note that while the Canadian government has announced and is pushing for complete legalization in the Spring of 2017, it is still illegal in Canada to possess small amounts of marijuana. Canada’s NDP (New Democratic Party) has demanded the immediate decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but Prime Minister Trudeau disagrees, saying it gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations.
While it might seem sensible to think that legalizing cannabis will keep it out of children’s hands,there is some evidence that proves otherwise. Overall, Colorado saw an increase in the number of marijuana-related poisonings—particularly accidental ingestion by children—in the first year of its new regime. Although Colorado feltcompelled to implement new regulationslast year that limit THC in edible items and pass another new law that prohibits pot products shaped like animals, human, or fruit, it seems that the Canadian government is unsure about the issue. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, one of the federal ministers responsible for guiding marijuana legalization in Canada, suggested recently that it was too early to say what kinds of products might be sold.
That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been any ideas being tossed around with how the Canadian government will go about legalizing the retail sale of cannabis.
The C.D. Howe Institute, one of Canada’s most prestigious research institutes, recently published a paper saying it could be reasonable to only allow sales of dried marijuana and cannabis-infused oil at first—products already permitted for medical purposes, and for which government expertise exists. Sales of other pot-related goods, such as edibles, could be phased in later, the paper added.
Certain countries of the world are reacting differently to Canada’s legalization of cannabis. Although some parts of the world, like Mexico and some South American countries, are pushing for the legalization/decriminalization of cannabis to better control of their drug problem, Canada has three international treaties to which the country is a party, all of which criminalize the possession and production of marijuana. So while spring of 2017 is a good goal to meet, some people aren’t so optimistic that legalization of cannabis will come so early. Errol Mendes, a constitutional and international law expert at the University of Ottawa, says the Canadian government faces a long, hard slog in the global arena before it can legalize pot at home.