During his campaign, now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana, and now it would appear that his plans are coming to fruition. It has officially been announced that sometime after spring 2017, Canadians will be able to purchase marijuana purely for personal enjoyment, although from where has yet to be determined. With an estimated market of around $10 billion, everybody from the existing licensed growers to public sector unions want a say in the future of the pot industry –not to mention the government officials who see a potential tax profit of $5 billion.
Currently there are four main possibilities being considered for the distribution of recreational marijuana: online purchases through and already licensed grower, private storefronts with already existent dispensaries, provincial liquor stores, and pharmacies (although there seems to be a general distaste for this option). The general difficulty is in trying to balance the desire to maximize monetary income with the need to limit potential harm. As University of Toronto PhD student Jenna Valleriani perfectly stated, “if it is about stimulating the economy and allowing… shops to …open up storefronts, …then private sales makes sense; but if the goal is public health, then it’s the [liquor store] model”.
Although there is a degree of Conservative support for stocking legalized marijuana in pharmacies, the vast majority of pharmacists would rather not place pot among their shelves as it would enforce its credibility as a medication. However, the idea of carrying and distributing marijuana through storefront dispensaries has achieved mixed results across Canada –where British Colombia has seen reasonable success, Ontario has had police raids and legal action against such stores. The police action that was taken against Ontario dispensaries could create a problem in the future if the government decides to take that route as many of the owners and sellers in these shops now possess charges for trafficking and possessing cannabis, preventing them from entering the market once it becomes active.
There is a great deal of discussion over what the legal age for marijuana will be once it is legalized. While subjects like whether or not a person will be able to grow their own are glaringly obvious (the answer is no, if you were wondering), deciding on when a person should be permitted to purchase pot is a little fuzzy. While some are arguing for 18, the same as the legal drinking age in some provinces, others argue that science has proven marijuana is more detrimental before the age of 25.
Currently, the liberal government has a nine-member task force gathering information around the potential marijuana market in Canada before the legislation has to be laid down. The task force, led by former deputy Prime Minister, Anne McLellan, will have to report their findings no later than November. Although spring still seems like a long way off, it will be interesting to see how the facts will play out after the reports come in next month.