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Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Is No Experiment, It’s Here to Stay

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PHOTO Andreas Ivarsson


Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Is No Experiment, It’s Here to Stay

Nothing about Canada’s move to legalize marijuana is temporary.

Marijuana is officially legal in Canada. As of today, it is no longer a criminal offense for adults at least 18 years of age to possess, use and grow weed at home for personal use. It is a scene that is expected to generate billions of dollars in economic reach for the nation, even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said for the past year or more than the intentions behind this reform have nothing to do with the potential economic benefits. Nevertheless, some media outlets, like the New York Times, are calling the northern nation’s significant change in drug policy “a national experiment,” perhaps suggesting that if the system fails, especially where “public health and safety” are concerned, a new government control might be forced reverse the law.

But there is nothing about Canada’s move to legalize marijuana that is temporary.

Not even if the Liberal government is pushed out of office, no one is waiting on the sidelines to revert back to criminalizing weed. “No party will be committing to turn back the clock on Justin Trudeau’s signature policy; not even the Conservatives who spent the last campaign painting nightmare scenarios about the legal sale of marijuana and who would have no qualms about doing away with other major parts of the Liberal legacy,” according to a recent column from The Star.

Next year, there will be another federal election. But rest assured, getting rid of the taxed and regulated cannabis market is not something that Canada’s official opposition conservatives would dare even consider. In the case where Andrew Scheer becomes the new prime minister, there would be plenty of Liberal policies that would end up on the chopping block. That is for sure. But “given the significant amount of money and labor that has gone into the opening and the operation of this new market, this was never a policy that could or would be reversed on a dime,” writes Star columnist Chantal Hébert.

There wasn’t much faith that marijuana legalization would find traction when the Liberals accepted the issue as part of its platform several years ago. There were even concerns that support for legal weed might cause the voters to turn the backs on the party. It eventually turned into an issue that defied all of the cards stacked against it. And the Liberal government just took it upon itself to make the change. Because it understood it was a point that already had public support.

As Hébert wrote in her column, “In the case of the legalization of cannabis… the federal government of the day did not so much create the circumstances for social acceptability as take advantage of its existence.”

Still, Canada has a long road ahead before marijuana legalization is embraced by all.

A sperate report published this week by the New York Times indicates that the northern nation may want to look to California to see the reality of legalization  –  like just how much the black market will continue to thrive. Rewind to days when Prime Minister Trudeau was discussing the reasons for Canada ending prohibition nationwide. He said the primary objective was to cripple criminal organizations and keep weed out of the hands of children.

But “the black market is still dominant,” in California, Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, told the Times. “It’s hard to persuade pot farmers who have been producing in the shadows for decades to fill out voluminous paperwork, pay taxes and comply with reams of environmental regulations.”

Canada will likely experience a similar situation. In a lot of ways, black market marijuana will be a necessary evil until the country gets a handle on the legal trade. Cannabis shortages and higher prices will be two key factors that keep some cannabis consumers shopping in the underground. But “the main change is that it will no longer be illegal,” Hébert writes. “And as a result, scores of people, many of them young, will no longer risk being saddled with a criminal record.”

Although the issue of legalization is not expected to be argued much at the federal level, provincial governments are expected to take over pot politics. Some of them, including Quebec, are working to impose a stricter set of rules than what was outlined the Canadian government. By measuring the success and failure of both regulatory systems, the country may eventually determine which is most likely to achieve Trudeau’s initial vision. One thing is sure, Canada will not have it figured out by the time the next election rolls around. In the meantime, the so-called experiment could become an influential policy change that leads to other nations considering similar action.

Hopefully, the United States is one of them.

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