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What’s the Next Step for Canada and Its Path to Legalization?

December 8, 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rode to victory on a promising wave of legalization, but he has his work cut out for him before his dream will come to fruition. Our neighbors to the north are poised to become the first G7 country to legalize marijuana at a national level, but the idea is not without its detractors, making Canada’s battle to the finish line a long and arduous one.

During a speech given at the re-opening of Parliament after October’s election, Governor General David Johnston reiterated the Liberal Party’s stance to support the legalization of cannabis for adults. He proclaimed that by removing the “criminal element” from cannabis, it will help fix a broken system.

Unfortunately, Canada has already experienced pushback from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who first sent out cease-and-desist letters before swiftly taking action towards dispensaries located along the west coast. Dispensaries in Nanaimo were raided, as well as an edibles bakery in Sechelt. All products, cash, and even personal vehicles were confiscated by the RCMP.

Trudeau’s administration is expected to outline legalization regulations in the coming months, which will then be proposed to Parliament before any action is taken. As for an actual timeline for legalization, British Columbian Senator Larry Campbell decided to err on the side of caution with his estimate, saying, “Oh, it’s going to happen. Certainly within the next four years, but I suspect a closer time frame is two.”

Canadian law enforcement spends at least $500 million CAN (nearly $370 million USD) to uphold marijuana laws, of which $50 million ($37 million USD) is allotted solely for raiding and destroying marijuana crops. There are 26 producers licensed by Health Canada, serving up to a maximum number of 450,000 qualified patients per day, which results in a $1.2 billion (over $880 million USD) industry. Should Canada follow through with its pledge to legalize cannabis, it would not only save hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent to enforce prohibition, it would actually bring in billions of dollars in revenue.

With countrywide legalization, there is much to be gained but also much to be learned. Colorado and Washington ventured into unknown territory in 2012, and any stumbles along their path to legalize recreational cannabis can provide Canada with real-life learning examples. In fact, Canada is actively following examples from the United States — the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse published a report in November entitled “Cannabis Regulation: Lessons Learned in Colorado and Washington State,” to outline the trials and tribulations of legalization from the front lines.

The optimism for legalization is firmly established in Trudeau’s administration, and hopefully his party recognizes what an incredibly complex undertaking this will be. Their spirit is willing and their pledge is admirable, but will they be able to follow the steps laid out before them to a safe, well-regulated, legal retail market?

Image source: ankakay via Flickr