Following through on a controversial and much-publicized campaign promise, Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau is set to table a bill on Thursday, April 13th that will legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018. In fall 2015, Trudeau and his Liberal Government overwhelmingly won a national election with sweeping and widespread support, particularly from young voters who were drawn by his progressive policies towards drug legalization and regulation. And while the subsequent process has frustrated voters who eagerly waited for Trudeau to fulfil his promise, it appears that governmental action is finally turning campaign chatter into law.
Responsibilities Split between Government and Provinces
Trudeau’s first action towards marijuana legalization was the establishment of a Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation. The Task Force, which included public health officials, substance abuse specialists, criminal justice and law enforcement authorities, as well as industry experts, was mandated to advise the implementation and “design of a new framework that legalizes, strictly regulates and restricts access to cannabis.”
As Anne McLella, chair of the federal Task Force explains, “Now is the time to move away from a system that has, for decades, been focused on the prohibition of cannabis, and into a regulated legal market.”
Broadly following the 80 recommendations outlined in their 106-page report, the Liberals moved forward, dividing the obligations between federal and provincial authorities. While the federal government in Ottawa will establish a mandatory age limit of 18, legislation regarding the way marijuana will be distributed, along with pricing and sales will be entirely left to provincial lawmakers. However, important questions on the price of cannabis, as well as who will be allowed to sell it remain unanswered. A recent poll found that a majority of Canadians, 45%, favour a system similar to alcohol, with government issued licenses strictly controlling the market.
Other details include:
- One person can possess 30 grams
- One household can grow 4 plants
- Applying strict limits on quantity and potency until 25 years of age
- Higher taxes on more potent weed in order to discourage excessive consumption
The entire report, with detailed analyses and discussions on issues of legalization, regulation, health and enforcement, is available online.
However, the transitory period has resulted in some high-profile raids and mass arrests throughout Canadian cities as citizens try to pre-emptively capitalize on weed’s expected legalization. Recently, police have reported raids on dispensaries in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, as well as private residences throughout Canada. Notably, celebrated marijuana activities Marc and Jodie Emery have had all of their 15 Cannabis Culture dispensaries forcibly shut. These arrests have dampened some of the euphoria around legalization and frustrated cannabis advocates.
Toronto lawyer Paul Lewin criticized municipal officials who have continued to ramp up enforcement efforts throughout the Greater Toronto Area, stating, “It’s a terrible idea for so many reasons . . . we’re using legal resources to try to shut down dispensaries when it’s going to be legal soon.” These recent arrests are the latest confrontations with police authorities that began last spring, when illegal dispensaries exploded across Toronto after Trudeau repeated his commitment to legalize weed for recreational purposes last May. As a result, police investigators arrested hundreds of people, confiscated hundreds of kilograms of dried marijuana and seized thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, Trudeau has reaffirmed the current legal status of marijuana, insisting that law enforcement will continue pursuing illegal marijuana activities until laws pass, “Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply."
Yet, the prospect of cannabis legalization has sent stock prices soaring, as numerous publicly traded medical marijuana companies saw huge share increases in anticipation of the government confirming the summer 2018 date. In fact, a recent study concludes that the entire legalisation economy “promises to spark a $22.6-billion industry in Canada, eclipsing combined sales of beer, wine, and spirits.” As a result, the handful of medicinal marijuana producers in the country are experiencing extraordinary growth. While the process so far has incited tensions between law enforcement authorities and cannabis advocates, Trudeau has continually stated his intention to overturn Canada’s senseless war on cannabis and finally respected the long standing public support against prohibition and criminalisation of cannabis.
Author: Carlos Danger
Image: Cannabis Culture