Cannabis legalization isn’t a hot topic only in the U.S. — just look north of the border. Medical cannabis is currently legal across Canada, and nation-wide recreational legislation is currently working its way to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s desk. Because the rollout of Canadian marijuana laws could influence the United States at some point, it’s worth paying attention to how things progress up north.
Canada will soon be legalizing cannabis for adults — will everyone be ready?
On July 1, 2018, full adult-use cannabis legalization will likely go into effect in Canada. But is everyone ready for this change to Canadian marijuana laws? Perhaps not. First of all, when new regulations regarding a certain product or substance go into place, regulators and law enforcement must be well trained on those rules. It’s essential they know exactly what’s legal and what’s not, but also how to detect possible infractions.
According to several sources, police chiefs don’t believe law enforcement will be ready for legalization in July 2018. At the same time, some members of the medical community — namely psychiatrists — are also worried about the rush the government seems to have. Police chiefs as well as several psychiatrists fear an increase in impaired driving.
The proposed law would allow people above the age of 18 to purchase and consume cannabis, and four plants per household would be allowed for personal use. That said, Canada’s individual provinces will be allowed to change several aspects of the law, such as raising the minimum consumer age. Those provinces also get to make decisions regarding distribution and sales within their own borders.
The upshot of this will likely be the implementation of different rules in every province; a hodgepodge of Canadian marijuana laws; some more restrictive than others. Some examples: In Manitoba, it’s likely that cannabis will not be allowed to be sold in the same stores as alcohol. Alberta announced a system in which private businesses will be allowed to sell cannabis in dedicated stores in which no tobacco, alcohol or pharmaceuticals will be sold. New Brunswick will probably create a maximum of 20 government-run stores in which advertising nor window displays will be allowed.
Having all these laws finalized and synced by mid-summer will take loads of work and coordination.
Apprehensions and possible solutions
According to a recent poll by researchers of the Dalhousie University in Halifax, about 68 percent of Canadians are in favor of cannabis legalization. Yet at the same time, many are given pause by the rapid pace at which the matter is progressing.
To address apprehensions, the Canadian government recently announced a new investment of $36.4 million (over the next five years), in addition to the earlier announced $9.6 million for education and awareness campaigns. Not only youth, but also pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as people with mental illnesses will be educated about the possible risks of cannabis consumption, according to the Canadian government.
To that point, Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor said:
We are tackling the issue of cannabis use with long-term investments in our education and awareness efforts. We want to make sure all Canadians, particularly our young adults and youth, understand the health and safety risks of cannabis. These efforts also aim to equip parents and teachers with tools to have meaningful discussions with young Canadians about the risks of cannabis use.
Public- vs. private-owned dispensaries
As mentioned earlier, Canada’s provinces will have some influence on the regulations they’ll apply. One of the most significant examples is the ownership of the dispensaries. Will they be public-owned (by a province’s government) or private-owned? Now that we’re getting closer to the end of 2017, and to the legalization launch date as well, provinces are starting to reveal pieces of their plans. Even though some provinces seemed to have figured much of it out, others seem to be struggling to find the best way to do things.
Many entrepreneurs want to see provinces allow private-owned dispensaries. But for now, it seems like many of them will be sidelined, and local governments will take control of the sales. Ontario for example, will most likely let the Ontario Liquor Control Board run the stores. Manitoba, however, might allow private stores to sell cannabis, but the province will act as the wholesaler.
Over in Saskatchewan, the government there is apparently leaning toward a model in which dispensaries will be private-owned. Newfoundland is expected to follow a model similar to Saskatchewan’s. While offering an opportunity to entrepreneurs, the province will avoid being forced to cover many of the costs of selling cannabis, such as renting stores and hiring staff. Since there are only about 344,000 adults in Newfoundland, offloading overhead costs could be a big plus for the province, which will, of course, benefit entrepreneurs ready to invest in the market.
What about the online sales and delivery?
Online sales shouldn’t be forgotten, and will probably be very lucrative since consumers are used to buying all sorts of stuff online.
But like the public- vs. private-owned dispensary debate, online sales opportunities could possibly exist in the same province-by-province rules scenario. E-commerce sites in some provinces could be owned and operated by the government while private entrepreneurs might manage those matters elsewhere. What this means is the buying process in Saskatchewan might look very different than in, say, Quebec, both in person and online
All these Canadian marijuana laws are, of course, changing almost daily. Don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye on it for you.