It was recently announced that effective July 1, 2018, recreational pot will become legal and can be sold at government-sanctioned outlets. While federal legalization is good for Canada, is limiting the sale of cannabis to only government outlets the right and effective way to do it?
Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001, with a strict distribution plan. Instead of going through a dispensary (dispensaries are currently considered illegal in Canada), growers can grow their crops in a large warehouse and send the product directly to the consumer.
In 2003 and 2004 two bills were introduced to decriminalize recreational marijuana where less than 15g would equal a minimal fine and possession of 15g-30g would incur a larger fine and possible arrest, but would be “at the discretion of the officer.” The closest the bill came to passing was in 2003, but with pressure from the US DEA stating that “border-crossing waits would increase,” it ultimately died.
While it looked like public opinion of legalizing marijuana was ultimately on the increase from 2007 till roughly 2017, many leaders introduced bills allowing for mandatory minimum sentencing, extradition of users and marketers, and various other forms of legislation to kill recreational marijuana from becoming legal.
The Constitution of Canada places the responsibility of liquor laws upon the ten provinces and three territories of Canada. Each have a separate agency for regulating consumption and (in all but one case) the sale of alcohol. Most jurisdiction have near-total control over hard liquor sales, while some areas allow limited private sales of beer and wine originating from Canada.
Why is this relevant? Because, these are the same provincial agencies that Canadian leaders are saying should produce, control, and distribute recreational marijuana. Just like with its liquor laws, Provinces and Territories are being left to make the decisions for themselves. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was the first to come out and say the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores would be the ideal venue for consumers. Though the product will be sold by a subsidiary corporation, the LCBO will be the SOLE provider of recreational marijuana for Ontario residents. This pattern will repeat across Canada’s provinces and territories.
Long story short, it’s complicated. But, a recent poll has stated over two-thirds of Canadians are okay with pot being grown and sold by private retailers, and not necessarily through provincial, government run agencies. While Ontario looks to have a monopoly over the recreational industry as a whole (even selling some strands as low as $8/ounce), critics say restricting private sales won’t deter users from purchasing illicitly-sold marijuana.
Canada has until 2018 to finalize any new legislation before legalization is in effect. While the government errs on the side of “strict in the beginning, relax later” policies, it looks like the people of Canada are speaking out for what they want now.
Are you a Canadian citizen standing up for privatized sales? We’d love to hear from you!