It comes to no surprise that Cannabis, also commonly known as marijuana or weed is the most widely used illegal drug in Canada. The Liberal government has announced that marijuana will be legalized by July 1, 2018. This new legislation that will give provinces control of sales and will heavily regulate the industry.
Many Canadians, especially youths, are eager for the legalization of marijuana. Before we explore the negative repercussions of the legalization of marijuana a brief history of marijuana will give more of an understanding of the industry.
The legal framework for drug control in Canada was implemented in the early 20th century. In 1908, the Opium Act was created, which was the first drug prohibition law and in 1923 cannabis was added to the act.
The illegalization of illicit drug possession created concern because youths were being targeted by police powers as well as receiving criminal sanctions in disproportionate numbers. To rectify the problem with the Opium Act, Canada’s Drug Strategy was implemented in 1987 to address the supply and demand reduction strategies and revamp their policies in enforcement, treatment, and prevention.
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The focus slightly shifted from criminal punishment to rehabilitation. The current law regarding Cannabis use is the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act 1996, which is firmly prohibitionist. Despite the zero-tolerance policy that Canada has adopted towards drug use, illicit drug use increased significantly across the country between 1993 and 1994.
The use of cannabis almost doubled from 4.2% to 7.4%.
The rationale behind the legalization of marijuana is that the current Canadian prohibition policy does not work, as it does not prevent young people from using marijuana, instead, too many Canadians end up with criminal records for the possession of small, insignificant amounts of cannabis.
Not only is arresting and prosecuting these offenders costly for the justice system, but too many minors are convicted of non-violent offenses. The main goal behind the legalization of marijuana is to ensure that it is kept away from children and the profits are not retained by criminals.
This explanation seems very sound and positive at first glance, however, it is impossible not to be skeptical about the Liberal Party’s true intentions. The first important thing to note is that a legal market for recreational cannabis could give Canada’s economy a boost of up to $22.6 billion annually, according to a new study from business service firm Deloitte.
The estimate is contingent upon how heavily the government decides to regulate marijuana and what price standards it sets. Giving the government total control over the marijuana industry is a mistake. Think about how the heavily the government has controlled the liquor industry. Although alcohol consumption is legal, there are so many regulations surrounding it, that the consumption can almost be criminalized.
Up until recent months, in Ontario only the LCBO and Beer Stores could sell alcohol, essentially creating a monopoly market structure, where the government is the only one profiting. To sell alcohol a license is required, which means fees being paid to the government, events or functions that are serving alcohol also require a specific permit to do so.
To sell alcohol a license is required, which means fees being paid to the government, events or functions that are serving alcohol also require a specific permit to do so.
Recreational and Community
Drinking openly in public is prohibited, the age for alcohol use is regulated, providing alcohol at a party puts the host completely liable for any crimes committed in regards to alcohol consumption. Although these measures are to protect society, the economic gains from the industry are deeply embedded in the laws and regulations.
Compare Canada’s regulations surrounding alcohol consumption to countries in Europe. In Italy for example, the sale of alcohol is not reserved strictly for government managed stores. The age limit less strict, the consumption is public is less regulated and those countries do not have significantly more deaths due to misuse of alcohol than Canada.
Think about the future of legal marijuana. Will it reflect Canada’s current alcohol regulation? Although people will not be prosecuted for possession, if they do not comply with the regulation in place, the penalties will likely be much higher than it currently is. Possession of marijuana in current society will most likely not get you convicted.
It is so widely used and the social stigma around weed is not as it once was. It has become something generally accepted and commonly used among different social groups. It is not reserved solely for delinquent youths from low socio economic backgrounds.
Instead, youths, students, and even professionals use it. Therefore, it is safe to say, that the danger of smoking a joint in public is very low.
The risk of being criminally prosecuted for small amounts of marijuana possession is relatively low. However, image if marijuana was legalized, with strict regulations on the amount an individual can carry.
The consequences of possessing more than the limit will leave the individual at much greater risk for criminal sanctions. Selling marijuana to a friend or family member could be riskier than it is now.
I’m always a little skeptical with policy changes, especially when it reflects a multi million-dollar industry. In the years to come the new policy and regulation will slowly unfold and then we will see the liberal government’s true intentions regarding the legalization of marijuana.
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