Marijuana Is Now Legal In Canada

By Kelly Burch 10/18/18

While cannabis enthusiasts rejoiced, policymakers cautioned that the legalization effort would have unpredictable, wide-ranging effects.

pro-marijuana parade in Toronto

While the United States has dabbled in legalizing marijuana in piecemeal legislation passed through the states, our neighbors to the north have fully ended the prohibition on cannabis, becoming just the second country in the world to legalize marijuana. 

The new law took effect Wednesday at midnight, with Canadians from coast to coast hosting parties to smoke in freedom, according to The New York Times. The legalization fulfilled a campaign promise by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

“The fact that we are moving away from a Prohibition model is a victory for human rights and social justice, an economic windfall for the Canadian economy and a sign of social progress,” said Adam Greenblatt, a director at Canopy Growth, a producer that has been valued at more than $10 billion, told the Times

While cannabis enthusiasts rejoiced, policymakers cautioned that the legalization effort would have wide-ranging effects, some of which would be hard to predict. 

“Legalization of cannabis is the largest public policy shift this country has experienced in the past five decades,” said Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety. “It’s an octopus with many tentacles, and there are many unknowns. I don’t think that when the federal government decided to legalize marijuana, it thought through all of the implications.”

The Canadian Medical Association Journal took a strong stance against the move, calling the legalization plan an “uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.”

Under the new law, Canadian adults can possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and have up to four plants growing at home. The logistics of the legislation—like setting up marketplaces—was left up to municipalities, meaning that it will vary across the country. The federal government will also be examining how to adjust the criminal records of people with marijuana-related offenses. 

To deal with intoxicated driving, the number of police certified in sobriety tests will double over the next few years. However, other than keeping risky drivers off the road, the police did not seem too concerned with the change in the law. 

“Fentanyl kills 11 Canadians a day,” Adam Palmer, Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department and the president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said. “Marijuana does not.”

While many people celebrated legalization, some cannabis consumers said that it was just a way for the government and big business to get their hands into the pot industry, which was estimated to be worth $5.6 billion in Canada last year. 

“People don’t want to buy government-approved joints,” said Jodie Emery, a leading cannabis activist in Vancouver. “Legalization is little more than the whitewashing of cannabis culture.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.