On March 26, 2017, the federal government revealed that it will legalize recreational marijuana in Canada by July 2018. According to the CBC, legislation will be announced during the week of April 10.
Marijuana legalization was a prominent campaign promise for Justin Trudeau, especially among youth and millennial voters. It was expected to be legalized by 2017, however, with the legislation only just announced this spring, it will not be legal until 2018.
Following decades of discussion, Canada’s government reviewed aspects of the Criminal Code that included marijuana consumption and possession. Legalization will not be without scrupulous parameters and stipulation, focusing primarily on regulating its use. In addition to the decriminalization of the drug, the distribution of marijuana will be legal under rigorous conditions and extensive monitoring.
What We Know So Far:
1) Provinces will individually control the sale of marijuana and age limits
While the federal government will enforce licensing, set the minimum age to buy (18), and ensure that the product is safe, individual provinces and territories will be responsible for deciding how marijuana is distributed and sold. They will also be able to set the price, and have the authority to raise the age limit if they wish to do so.
2) Canadians will be allowed to grow for personal use
It will be legal for individuals to grow marijuana for personal consumption, with a limit of four plants per household.
What We Don’t Know:
1) Where Exactly Marijuana Will Be Sold
As mentioned, individual provinces and territories will be in control of where the drug will be sold. For Ontario specifically, there has been speculation that it could be sold by the LCBO, the crown corporation that retails and distributes alcoholic beverages throughout the province. In fact, Premier Kathleen Wynne said back in 2015 that “it makes a lot of sense” to use the distribution network of the LCBO to sell marijuana.
2) Regulation Details
It remains uncertain how marijuana legalization will be regulated by law enforcement. Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Chris Lewis told CP24 on March 27 that at this point, police departments are not fully aware of what is required from law enforcement in terms of regulation. He also cited unknowns such as how to manage impaired driving, and the cost of training going forward.
According to Mark Lustig, CEO of CannaRoyalty Corp., pharmacies such as Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs and Jean Coutu could benefit greatly if provincial governments call on them to be distributors. According to The Financial Post, Shoppers Drug Mart – Canada’s largest pharmacy chain – is already involved in the distribution of medical marijuana, having applied to Health Canada to become a medical marijuana distributor last fall.
In many cities, dispensaries are continuing to be frequently raided and shut down by police. Trudeau has hinted that until the sale of marijuana is legal, this will continue.
“Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply,” he said in Esquimalt, B.C. on March 1.
Impact on Youth
According to Benedikt Fischer, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, one in three Canadians between 16 and 25 either have used or are using marijuana. While there have been concerns about the implications of legalization on Canadian youth, most secondary school students won’t be old enough to legally use it when the legislation changes. That doesn’t mean that education isn’t necessary. Fischer says it’s also extremely important to teach young people how to minimize the risks of use.