With Canada’s Senate successfully passing Bill C-45 on Tuesday June 19, 2018, this monumental vote for cannabis legalization is not just historic, it represents a significant shift in the understanding of marijuana as both a medicine and a social norm. A G7 nation has ended an almost century-long prohibition and in its place, enacted a complex framework of licensing and retail scenarios across the country.
Senators voted 52-29 to make marijuana legal nationwide. Two senators abstained.
Along the way toward legislation being passed, a deluge of criticism followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet. It started with the Liberals’ rival New Democratic Party (NDP) denouncing Trudeau for refusing to decriminalize pot and instead opt for the creation of a legal cultivation and retail market.
Although the idea of making money off the truckloads of cannabis Canadians consume is a sound business decision, Trudeau allowed thousands of Canadians to be arrested and charged by not decriminalizing something that was scheduled to no longer be criminal in the future.
Further to that point, the prime minister raised eyebrows when he refused to do something about the border problems Canada started having with the United States.
US Customs and Border Protection officers in recent years have taken it upon themselves to ask Canadians whether they have ever consumed weed. Not consumed that day, or that week — they are asking whether the person in question has ever consumed in their lifetime.
Naturally, many Canadians have answered yes, and that admission has led to a lifetime ban from crossing the border into the US.
“Canadians appreciate that we don’t let other countries or other leaders dictate who or how we let people into our country,” the prime minister said in September 2017. “So I’m not going to tell Americans how to make decisions about who they let into their country either.”
Speaking of international woes, there is still the matter of how Canada will deal with three international drug treaties it was a party to in the last few decades. At this point there has been little evidence that Canada is planning to address the issue.
Then, there was the controversy regarding the significant increase in law enforcement over the last two years to wipe out all unlicensed dispensaries ahead of legalization. This move effectively cut out many activists and advocates who were partially responsible for legalization being a reality in the first place, as opening a licensed facility takes a significant amount of capital.
The list of complaints goes on and on, but there are positives.
Cannabis use will soon be normalized in Canada more than it has ever been. Anyone who has enjoyed marijuana over the last several years understands the clandestine nature that is required for the activity, but for Canadians enjoying a joint at a get together could soon be as normal as having a beer.
Another benefit to a fully legal regime, despite the bumps to get here, is the gargantuan amount of business the new sector will create — not to mention the vast amounts of income.
Last but certainly not least, Canadians will no longer be prosecuted for possession of cannabis and that cannabis will come from a store approved by a government body. That is still leaps and bounds ahead of buying it off a guy in the park.
Recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada on Oct. 17, 2018. The path to get to this point was not always pretty, but we still made it.