Canada was the first country among the G20 to legalize cannabis across the country. Medical cannabis was made legal at the federal level in July of 2018, prior to that medical use was determined by the individual provincial health ministries. Recreationally, the Cannabis Act came into effect in October of 2018 allowing for the consumption and possession of cannabis.
Who Legalized Cannabis in Canada?
The short answer to that question is that the Trudeau government was responsible for legalizing cannabis. Prior to the 2015 election one of the campaign promises made by Trudeau was that he would legalize recreational cannabis use across the country. In previous interviews Trudeau openly admitted that he had been a recreational cannabis user himself and saw no reason that cannabis should remain illegal. Citing the success of legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington Trudeau claimed we could see the same success in Canada. He claimed that the prohibition on marijuana did nothing but make criminal organizations rich while not protecting the community. Here is Trudeau talking with school children on why he put forth legislation to legalize marijuana.
Creating a Taskforce
True to his election promises, after becoming Prime Minister in 2015 Trudeau went ahead and created a taskforce made up from members of both federal and provincial governments to discuss the process for legalization. A year later the group released a report of over 100 pages to the public with their recommendations on how legalization would go forth.
Bill C-45 was introduced to Parliament which would see cannabis for sale for recreational use effective July 1, 2018. However the provincial governments who would be controlling the sale of cannabis would not be ready until later in the year. The first cannabis stores would not be opened until later in October.
Following legalization the sale of cannabis is to be treated in much the same way that alcohol is regulated and sold. Cannabis can only be sold by licensed retailers and in most provinces they are government owned. Cannabis can also only be grown by producers licensed by Health Canada. To date there are roughly 117 licensed producers supplying the Canadian market. Canadians wishing to purchase marijuana at one of the licensed retail outlets must also be of age. The legal age to purchase cannabis is 19 in most provinces and 18 in others. While the number of stores opening in each province remained fairly low, online sales were also made available and delivery would be made through Canada Post.
What About Vaping?
Vaping Cannabis has been left out of the new regulation of legalizing marijuana. Toronto based vaping store Puff Panda’s believe that this is unfair of the current legislation and that it should be updated.
Enhanced Laws to Protect Children
Throughout the legalization process Trudeau has maintained that by legalizing and controlling the sale of cannabis Canada would be in a better position to ensure the safety of minors and to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. Trudeau maintains that black market sales of cannabis do not ask their customers for ID nor will they refuse to sell to teenagers. On the other hand by taking the market away from criminal organizations and the revenue the government was in a better position to enforce the laws and ensure cannabis was sold to adults.
At the same time there are regulations in place that limits the amount of purchase, growing your own, where you can legally consume cannabis and when it will be made available for sale. The new Cannabis Act that also legalized cannabis also imposed stiffer penalties for supplying cannabis to minors and driving while under the influence of cannabis. It also made sure that cannabis would be taxed.
Regulations Across the Country
While legalization was done at the federal level the distribution and sale of cannabis is managed by the provinces, much in the same way that alcohol is managed. There are some very strict regulations regarding the marketing or advertising of cannabis. Much like tobacco companies in Canada cannabis companies are prohibited from advertising on media outlets, they cannot sponsor sporting events or facilities. The provinces are able to determine how and where cannabis can be sold along with where it can be consumed including private residences.
Revenue Generated by Cannabis Sales
While the sale of recreational cannabis has been available across Canada for less than a year and there have definitely some kinks to work out in regards to production and distribution. Regardless of that fact cannabis sales have generated almost $200 million in revenue just from the sale of cannabis alone. However this falls short of the projected revenue most attribute that to the fact that the provinces, particularly Quebec and Ontario weren’t ready for the October launch dates. The projected revenue for the remainder of the first year of sales is expected to be higher and will stabilize once the logistics have been sorted out. Canada is hoping to see the same type of success that both Colorado and Washington have had with legalization. Higher tax revenues and lower crime rates, but that remains to be seen.