BY ANDREW BENNEY
The Liberal government revealed that it will be announcing legislation later this month that will see marijuana legalized across Canada by July 1 of next year.
The legislation is expected to be made public this week, with some sources stating that April 20, a renowned calendar date where marijuana enthusiasts all choose to smoke at the same time, will be the time of the release.
However, with a formal framework for cannabis use yet to be disclosed, some Canadians believe this information has created more questions in citizens’ minds than it has answered.
Many experts and advocates of the proposed legalization effort remain baffled at the continued prosecution of marijuana offenders. Most notably, the arrests of the so-called “Prince and Princess of Pot,” Marc and Jodie Emery, in early March, saw significant public backlash against the trafficking, conspiracy and possession charges laid against the British Columbia couple.
“It doesn’t make sense for police to continue raiding and arresting people for weed if it’s not even going to be illegal in like a year,” said Spencer Montgomery, a London resident and medically authorized cannabis user in Ontario. “Imagine getting charged and having a (criminal) record that stays with you for an act that isn’t even a crime anymore.”
Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise of legalizing and monitoring the use of the drug, something believed to have been a large reason for the increased support of younger voters, he reminded Canadians last month that potential changes in legislature are not reason to circumvent current legal policies.
“Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply,” Trudeau said in a CBC News article while in Esquimalt, B.C. on March 1.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould also justified Canadian police actions in a statement, saying, “At this time cannabis is still a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Storefronts are not authorized to sell cannabis for medical reasons or for any other purpose.”
These announcements have not stopped licensed producers of the drug from showing their eager anticipation of the proposed new laws as the first Cannabis and Hemp Expo took place in Edmonton on April 1. The event saw more than 50 sellers from across Canada and the United States attend with the purpose of educating the public on the substance and the industry surrounding it, while simultaneously reaching out to customers of the future.
On top of this, stock prices of some of Canada’s largest distributors have seen a significant jump as the government takes another step closer to legalization. Companies such as Aurora Cannabis have seen share prices shoot up over 400 per cent in the last year, leading them to take pre-emptive action in the form of constructing a new, 800,000-square-foot facility in Alberta. The site, dubbed “Aurora Sky,” is designed to produce up to 100,000 kilograms of marijuana a year.
Other licensed distributors and organizations who would benefit from the legalization of marijuana, including those in Waterloo Region, are also looking forward to selling to recreational smokers. Ronan Levy, director and co-founder of Canadian Cannabis Clinics, which unveiled a branch in Kitchener in 2015, said the public can expect many more establishments to open in the coming months.
“There’s a lot of need (for medicinal marijuana) already, so once recreational use and sales become legal, you’ll see dispensaries and shops open up rapidly to meet that public demand,” Levy said.
The federal government will be the ones responsible for ensuring Canada’s cannabis supply is safe and secure, while the provinces will determine how to best distribute or sell the product. As well, the Trudeau government has stated that Ottawa will set the minimum age to purchase marijuana at 18, but provinces will be permitted to set a higher age limit if they so choose.
There are currently 41 authorized, licensed producers across Canada, 24 of which are located in Ontario.
In 2016, the CIBC released an estimate of the worth of the recreational marijuana market in Canada, with figures that put the value at around $10 billion.
“Everyone has been smoking weed for as long as anyone can remember, it was really just a matter of time before the government realized they could make money off of it,” Montgomery said. “I just hope they legalize it as quickly as they’ve promised.”