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THE LOWDOWN ON CANADA’S PLAN TO LEGALIZE: Maple Won’t Be the Only Leaf Canada is Known For

By: Shontelle Reyna

THE LOWDOWN ON CANADA’S PLAN TO LEGALIZE: Maple Won’t Be the Only Leaf Canada is Known For

The cannabis community has been lit up with enthusiasm about Canada’s game changing decision to become the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to fully legalize the flower we all know and love. Canada plans to take a polished and progressive approach to the legalization of cannabis, including potential pardons for those with criminal records due to cannabis offenses. That being said there are some that don’t agree with the decision to approach cannabis with the same distaste that they have historically done with big tobacco.

According to Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed to manage the new legislation, “Criminal prohibition has failed to protect our kids and our communities.” The understanding that allowing the black market to control the distribution of marijuana hasn’t reigned in the number of young people using the drug is a large aspect of the recent legislation.

Blair’s intentions are said to place public health above commercial interests saying, “It is not our intent to promote the use of this drug,” which will limit marketing to predominantly basic information like name, ingredients and strain. Packaging could also be regulated. The idea is to allow only plain packaging, like the bill currently in Canada’s Senate for cigarettes. This alone has many marijuana producers worried. It would create a platform for companies to compete based only on potency and price, while potentially cutting out the small entrepreneurs hoping to get a slice of the pie.

Canada has utilized a panel of intellectuals aka “The Task Force” and in the “Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada” released discuss utilizing the “well-informed base of organizations, advocates, charities, foundations and other stakeholders who have advanced cannabis-related research and policy work.” going on to say that, “These groups can be relied upon as important sources of knowledge and advice as governments move forward to enact the new system. Non-governmental organizations will play an important role in the implementation of the new system.” So there has been some inclusion of the already knowledgeable people and organizations who have paved the way for the current legislation but will that be enough?

According to Blair the Canadian government hopes to begin to allow legal sales by the middle of 2018, but even with the benefit of having the trials of legalization in the states to reference, The Task Force, and the many other advocates that the government has utilized for its policy there is of course, still many issues to be worked out, like:

  • Even though the federal government will license and regulate future growers, each province needs to work distribution and how it will be sold.
  • Canada is still developing the equivalent of a breathalyzer for marijuana for potential DUIs and work safety. Criminal laws could require those suspected of driving under the influence to give the police saliva samples on request when stopping drivers for any reason.
  • There is also the concern of international drug treaties that diplomats will have to address.
  • Taxation. There is still no clear decision on how the cannabis industry will be taxed

The new legislation will allow:

  • Those 18 years and older to purchase, although provinces can set a higher age if they see fit.
  • Each household (not person) will be allowed to grow up to four plants for personal use but the seed must be licensed or from a seedlings supplier, and each plant can be no bigger than one metre in height.
  • Possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis when in public.
  • Sharing up to 30 grams of cannabis with other adults.
  • Purchasing cannabis and cannabis oil from regulated retailers in provinces that do not have a regulated retail framework yet.
  • Purchasing cannabis online from a federally licensed producer.
  • Making cannabis products at home (food and drinks) as long as dangerous organic solvents are not used when making these treats

It is still illegal to:

  • Give or sell cannabis to someone under the legal age.
  • Use someone under the legal age to commit a cannabis-related offense.
  • Bringing cannabis over the border is still a serious offense, with a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison except for Canadian Marijuana producers who have approval from the government.
  • Any kind of importing, exporting or selling of marijuana without a license.
  • Carry more than the legal 30 grams of marijuana could get you a $5,000 fine or up to five years in prison.
  • Grow marijuana using illegal seeds or more than the legal max which would put a fine of up to $5,000 (which goes up to $100,000 if you are a business) and/or six months to 14 years in jail.

Although many see this as a step in the right direction, others are hoping not to be forgotten in the shuffle. This new legislation may have come to fruition in part, to get rid of the need for a black market (and of course the potential for a $675-million-dollar industry) but many in said market are those who have suffered most from its prohibition and the War on Drugs while also being a catalyst to the acceptance and understanding of the plant.

While there are steps for inclusion like seeking out “Indigenous governments and representative organizations regarding their interests, and perspectives” and proposed training for policing the Canadian government’s desire to “not be a free for all” according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Trudeau himself saying, “I don’t know how much clearer we can be that we’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users” there seems to be something of a disconnect and still an echo of disdain. Only time will tell.

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