With Canada Day and Canada 150’s celebrations being at full swing, it’s a great time to talk marijuana legalization in Canada.
Whether Canadians like it or not, marijuana will become legalized in Canada next year, meaning that all Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to legally purchase marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.
From my place in the world and within the legal cannabis industry, I can tell my fellow Canadians are confused at what this all means.
There are too many myths surrounding cannabis legalization in Canada that need busting.
Myth 1: Kids will get easy access to marijuana.
FALSE. Legalization is put into place to protect minors.
I recently read an article that expressed a mixed attitude towards legalization after a mother saw her child high on marijuana. I understood the point completely. I don’t want 13 year-olds to be smoking weed either.
While the Cannabis Act is still in its early stages of development, one thing is certain: sales to minors will be a punishable criminal offense.
If a cannabis retail operation or dispensary is found selling to minors – and you better believe they’ll be doing compliance checks – they can be shut down, fined, or even jailed for up to 14 years.
In addition, as it is in the states, there will be strict rules regarding how marijuana products and dispensaries are marketed.
When edibles become a legalized part of the recreational framework, packaging and labeling will likely be free of cartoons, celebrity endorsements, imagery and colour schemes that are appealing or enticing to children.
Perhaps notable, and most important to me as a cannabis writer, is the goal towards education and spreading information.
Legalization is not intended to make weed enticing to children.
It’s intended to put measures in place that all members of society have access to robust information, advanced knowledge of marijuana, and when legal, have access to safe, quality-checked products.
Myth 2: Legal Marijuana is a New Thing
FALSE. Canada has allowed the legal distribution of medical marijuana since 2001. Yes, the government has facilitated access to marijuana for 16 years now, and a lot of people have been getting Canadian medical marijuana, 100,000 people, in fact.
Under the current legal medical marijuana, the Canadian government issues licenses to a select few production (growing) and retail (dispensary) operations. Under Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), physicians and Nurse Practitioners are able to prescribe cannabis to eligible patients.
This is where there is a lot of misinformation as well about legal marijuana. Not all people access cannabis to get high.
With substantial evidence supporting the positive medical benefits of cannabis, medical users have been using a variety of products with no psycho-active effect.
CBDs, or cannabidiols, are a compound found in the cannabis plant, that are often extracted for dietary or medical use. These extractions aren’t meant to get people stoned, at all, because there is no THC (the compound that gets you high) but rather allow them to experience the beneficial parts of the cannabis plant.
Legal marijuana dispensaries sell these products in oil, tincture (drops), or edible form where the medical user benefits from the CBDs without any change to the mental state.
Myth 3: Canada will reek like pot
FALSE. My Mom gave me this little nugget once that warranted some more comment. “Ugh, I can’t stand the smell of the stuff, I hate that I’ll have to smell it all the time!” she said. This is not true.
I’ll be the first to admit that legislation is confusing. It’s been interesting to watch 29 different states try to come up with regulations that govern legalized marijuana and how it’s used in public spaces.
Oddly, while there is no legal restriction on medical marijuana use in public, with the legalization of recreational pot, surely there will be.
No U.S. states have made it legal to smoke in public, unless it is within a designated space that has undergone licensing and regulation, from ventilation to proximity to facilities with children, it’s not easy to “legally” smoke marijuana in public.
People still smoke marijuana in public. All the time, despite the fact that it’s not actually decriminalized to possess marijuana (also a myth). It’s my bet you won’t smell any more weed after legalization than you do now.
There is a chance that legal smoking may only be restricted to the home once the Act unfolds.
Either way, it’s better than cigarettes, the smoke of which has been restricted over and over to the benefit of the public. Marijuana smoke restrictions are expected to follow suit.
Myth 4: Legalized marijuana has no public benefit.
FALSE. Everyone in Canada will benefit in some way from legalized marijuana whether they realize it or not. They have already benefitted from around $400-million a year in the legalized medical market.
$6 Billion in tax revenue was generated in the U.S.A. in 2016. With last year being one of the best for cannabis legalization, 2017 is only set to be a promising paycheck for the legalized states.
Projections for tax revenue for Canada following legalization are to reach $6 billion for legalized recreational sales, $8 billion when you include medical sales.
Do you know what you can do with $8 billion dollars across Canada? It can make a significant dent in the already high cost of social services, with marijuana in many cases being what reduces the strain on social services.
Tax revenues will be paid to provinces in Canada where they will be able to disseminate money how they choose.
When you look to the legalized states, they have been able to turn their revenue into the building of schools in municipalities, the of support law enforcement programs, and most importantly, the building of public education programs around marijuana and its use.
Myth #5: Marijuana will create more drug users.
COULDN’T BE MORE FALSE. I’m a good example of this. I am a frequent user of marijuana, but I rarely drink alcohol, and I have never accessed, been around, and most importantly consumed another illegal substance.
Marijuana does not accelerate my desire for intoxication or make me want to find new drugs. To be a little cliché, “It makes me feel the way I need to feel,” (Snoop Dogg) no more or no less.
Canada is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. With almost 2,500 reported deaths across Canada from narcotic use, it’s been declared a public threat.
Alcohol kills more than 5,000 people a year. Tobacco kills 37,000 people a year.
Marijuana kills no people a year. Marijuana has never killed anyone, ever, in the history of time. Anywhere on this planet. (I dare you to prove me wrong!)
So far, public health has failed Canadians in terms of alcohol and tobacco regulation, and addiction to opioids is reflective of a broken medical system.
The conversation is advancing around the world on the role of marijuana in treating opioid addiction. We need to learn from our mistakes to guarantee a better future for how substances are used.
Let’s Get Real
Legalization is confusing and not easy to implement, but everyone has their role.
It’s inevitable, so why not try to embrace something with information and understanding rather demonizing a system before it even starts.
As a cannabis writer, I offer my services to educators, public health, parents, and publications in Canada, and globally to help shed some light on how we can make legalization a public health success. Get in contact to discuss how we can work together.
I encourage all cannabis users – I know there are a lot of you out there – to share their experiences, and do your share of myth busting so that we can embrace Canada’s cannabis legalization with an open mind and a willingness for change.