Canada Makes History
In a landmark decision, the Canadian parliament has finally passed a law that legalizes the recreational use of cannabis across the nation.
The Cannabis Act was finally passed into law following an overwhelming 52-29 vote by Canada’s upper chamber in the Senate last Tuesday. The new Bill will control and regulate how cannabis can be grown, distributed and sold across the country.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau subsequently announced that the bill would come into force on October 17th and with it make Canada the second nation after Uruguay to introduce the full legalization of recreational cannabis.
In keeping with the style of modern-day politicians, Trudeaux took to Twitter to tweet: "it's been too easy for our kids to get cannabis - and for criminals to reap the profits". With the decision, Canada has finally ended a near 100-year prohibition on the substance with Cannabis first criminalized back in 1923 and with it, becomes the first G7 nation to adopt such an approach.
Following the vote, Senator Tony Dean told reporters: “We’ve just witnessed a very historic vote that ends 90 years of prohibition,” continuing to say that: “It ends 90 years of needless criminalization, it ends a prohibition model that inhibited and discouraged public health and community health in favor of just-say-no approaches that simply failed young people miserably.”
With this decision, Prime Minister Trudeau has fulfilled a 2015 campaign promise to legalize the use of cannabis recreationally. Trudeau has continually argued that Canada's criminalization of the drug had proved largely ineffective with Canadians amongst the world’s heaviest users of the substance.
Now, with a few months, until the bill becomes law, all of the country’s provinces and territories face a race against the clock to set up the new cannabis marketplace. This timeframe will also give industry and police forces a relatively short time to prepare for the new legal framework.
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What Does This Mean for Canadians?
Canadians are said to be largely positive about the decision and that should come as no surprise with the country’s residents estimated to have spent about $6bn CAD on cannabis in 2015, which is almost as much as they were said to have spent on wine.
However, from mid-October, that money will no longer enter the hands of criminals. Instead, a booming marketplace is expected to develop rapidly over the coming months and years. As a result, Canadians will be able to buy cannabis and CBD oil grown by licensed producers at a variety of retail locations rather than from the dodgy dude on the street corner.
Cannabis sales, which analysts have estimated could eventually be worth as much as $7bn CAD annually, will vary depending on the province.
For example, In Alberta, recreational cannabis will be available at more than 200 private retailers. Elsewhere, in New Brunswick, the provincial government will operate a chain of stores to be called Cannabis NB.
Local Provinces will have final authority on how and where cannabis is to be sold, as well as controlling other limits on its use such as where it can be consumed in public.
The Canadian Government has also issued strict guidelines for plain-packaging with no brandings as well as detailed health warnings. They will also impose restrictions on promotions targeting young people, promotion through sponsorships, or depictions of celebrities, characters or animals in commercial advertisements.
For users. online purchasing will be available from federally licensed producers and all residents will be allowed to grow up to four plants at a time in the comfort of their own home.
Anyone over the age of 18 (or 19 depending on some provinces) will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams (one ounce) of cannabis in public which at a first glance, seems rather substantial.
Other products such as edibles or cannabis-infused foods, will not be immediately available for purchase with the government deciding they need more time to set out the necessary regulations specific to those kinds of items.
With this monumental decision, the government has also vowed to explore the possibility of clearing the criminal records for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians with past convictions merely for possessing the drug. While retrospective justice cannot erase the injustices of the past, it would give many Canadians the chance at a fresh start in life, no longer stigmatized by a so-called criminal past.
Canada’s rapidly changing approach to cannabis could put an increasing strain on the country’s already rocky relationship with current US President, Donald Trump.
Trump's administration has previously suggested that the D.O.J (Department of Justice) will do more to protect existing federal laws while further prohibiting recreational cannabis, thus raising significant concerns over how Canada’s new laws will coexist with those south of the border.
With only 9 US states (as well as the District of Columbia) introducing legalized cannabis, there remains a distinct possibility that more and more people from the US will look to cross the border in search of the cannabis that is unavailable to them in their particular state.
Furthermore, with US policy dictating that no Canadians may enter the US if they admit to having used cannabis, a situation of refused entry becomes more likely for many Canadians who will have consumed cannabis legally in their own country.
With nearly 400,00 people crossing the border between Canada and the US on a daily basis, border control may soon have a significant problem in the north of the country, as well as that which currently exists in the south.
Changing Attitudes Across The Globe
Recent polls have repeatedly indicated that a solid majority of Canadians were supportive of the decision. This mirrors global trends, which have resulted in an increasing number of countries relaxing their cannabis laws.
And with Canada becoming the first G7 nation to fully embrace the legalization of recreational cannabis, there is understandable hope and expectation that many other countries may soon follow suit.
Even the Conservative Government of the UK have announced that they will change the scheduling of cannabis for medicinal use. This came as a result of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell having his CBD oil confiscated by security at Heathrow Airport, London. Following the incident, His mother Ms Caldwell demanded a change in the law and the resultant press-coverage has forced the government's hand.
Announcing the decision, UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, told MPs: “It has become clear to me since becoming home secretary that the position we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory. It is not satisfactory for the parent, it’s not satisfactory for the doctors and it’s not satisfactory for me.” Javid elaborated by saying: “I’ve now come to the conclusion that it is time to review the scheduling of cannabis.”
Javid said the commission would first have experts look at the evidence for the medical benefits of cannabis, and then government advisors would recommend what products might be rescheduled.
However, Javid reiterated the UK government’s stance on recreational cannabis. He declared that there is no suggestion of the government legalizing cannabis for recreational use, while penalties for unauthorized supply and possession will continue as normal.
Even still, the progress made in just a few months in the UK fully demonstrates why we need to continue the fight against the stigma and misinformation concerning cannabis, while always continuing to share our positive stories about both cannabis and CBD.
With Canada finally adopting a common sense approach to legislation, we can only hope that a fairer and simpler system of legality will be adopted across the whole of the US in the coming years. Unfortunately, like so many of the issues facing the US today, the country remains divided on cannabis with only half of the country adopting any form of legality.
With our friends in the north taking such a monumental step, it is surely time for the US government to end the absurd contradictions on criminality that still exist between state and federal level.