Canada ushers in historic new era with legalization of cannabis

The Great White North could find itself in a great white puff of pot smoke as Canada makes history by legalizing marijuana.

What started as an election promise by Justin Trudeau in 2015, before he was prime minister, has led to Canada becoming the second country in the world to legalize the production, sales and distribution of recreational cannabis. Uruguay broke the mould in December 2013, but Canada is the first country in the G20 to move forward with pot legalization.

Cannabis is being legalized in Canada through the Cannabis Act, the first alteration to the Canadian Criminal Code as it relates to pot prohibition in 95 years. It allows adults in Canada to do the following:

The prime minister placed the responsibility of selling, distributing and regulating marijuana under provincial and territorial governments, who will also be reaping the profits of pot sales, making Canada the world’s largest marketplace for pot stock.

If you wish to consume cannabis in Canada, you could face legal trouble if you fail to follow the rules.

Each province and territory has their own plans for allowing Canadians to legally purchase and consume cannabis, but the differences are key. For example, most provinces allow pot growing in households, but that’s not permitted in Quebec. Most jurisdictions say 30 grams is the limit for personal possession, yet in Quebec, up to 150 grams per person is permissible. British Columbia will allow consumption anywhere that tobacco is allowed, but you can only light up on private property while in Yukon.

On Wednesday morning, people were reporting problems accessing the Ontario Cannabis Store website after it went live at midnight. Spotify contacted Yahoo Canada to say the official storefront website was not down. Others said they were able to successfully able to access the site and purchase marijuana online. The government-run online retailer is currently the only legal avenue for pot purchasing in Canada’s most populous province.

The overwhelming demand for marijuana had been a concern for some wishing to purchase the drug legally. Some economists had warned before legalization that a lack of pot producers in the country could lead to shortages.


Journey to ‘Marijuanada’

In 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals ran on a federal election platform that included legalizing marijuana for all Canadians. While the New Democrats offered to decriminalize cannabis, the Liberals were the only major party in Canadian history to make pot legalization a pillar of public policy.

The Liberals argued their plan would keep marijuana away from children, ease the burden on the criminal justice system and get profits out of the hands of criminals.

The platform was part of the reason why the Liberals won a majority government mandate on Oct. 19, 2015.

Trudeau has angled the argument for pot legalization as a way to eliminate the black market for sales, which he says has made it easier for children to buy marijuana than it is to purchase alcohol.

“There’s no black market for beer,” the prime minister said in April 2017. “There’s no black market for alcohol.”

He’s also acknowledged the government’s plan has taken inspiration from the U.S. where recreational marijuana is now approved in nine states.

“We’ve been able to go down and learn from their successes, their failures that has definitely helped inform how we’re going to move forward on a legalization framework,” Trudeau said.

Praise and criticism for Canadian pot

A recent poll by Abacus Data suggests an overwhelming amount of Canadians spanning various regions and across party lines support legalization. A staggering 70 per cent of polled individuals said the plan for legalization was exactly what they’d hoped for.

When the bill was approved by the Senate in June, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould called C-45, the Cannabis Act, a “historic milestone for progressive policy in Canada.” The legislation was lauded as a method to “protect our youth from the risks of cannabis while keeping profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.”

But still, not everyone is happy. Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford accused the Liberals of “putting people at risk” by “rushing legal cannabis out of the door.”

Canada, however, forges forward, going as far as planning to pardon offenders with simple pot possession charges on their record.

While some provinces have asked for more time, police chiefs have said they’re ready for cannabis legalization. There are reportedly 13,000 police officers trained to sniff out motorists under the influence of marijuana.

What drivers can expect on the road

The federal government has approved the use of the Draeger DrugTest 5000, the first roadside saliva-based drug test ever to be used by law enforcement in Canada.

The device will able to detect both cocaine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, minutes after swabbing a motorist. The device has been at the centre of criticism by those who say it isn’t accurate when used in cold temperatures.

Despite the criticism, Trudeau is aligned with most Canadians who say they are united in insisting the move to legalize is the right one to make, surveys suggest.

“By controlling it, by legalizing it, we’re going to make it more difficult for young people to access and we’re going to ensure that criminal organizations and street gangs don’t make millions, billions of dollars of profit every year.” — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

What do you think? Will you be buying, growing or smoking? Is Canada a leader on the world front, or will legalization hurt the country? Tell us what you think in the comments and check out the latest on our ongoing Cannabis Canada section.


With files from The Canadian Press