In 2018, Canada became one of the first nations in the western hemisphere and the world in general to fully legalize the use of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. Historical accounts show that the Opium Act of 1908 was the first law that affected the use and trade in Canada, which originally prohibited the use of a number of recreational drugs such as opium. Cannabis was a highly restricted product, but the debate started to change towards the end of the millennium. Since 2001, there has been a process to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, which ended with the Cannabis Act of 2018. This paper provides a report of cannabis legalization in Canada, paying attention to the history of the law, steps involved, the provisions within the law, and its pros and cons.
Steps on the Cannabis Act Complete Legal Process
The process of legalization of cannabis in Canada started in 2001 with the establishment of the medical marijuana program under the management of Health Canada. Under this program, people could access homegrown cannabis or purchase the substance directly from Health Canada. In 2013, the program was changed, and people were allowed to access the product from a few legalized cultivators and distributors. However, the breakthrough in marijuana legalization in the country came in 2015 after the election of Justin Trudeau as the Prime Minister (Decorte et al., 2020). Indeed, in his first popular step, Trudeau initiated the establishment of a task force to discuss a suitable and sustainable process of legalizing the substance for both casual and medical use. The 106-page report made several recommendations. For instance, the report provides that sales of marijuana for recreational use were to remain prohibited until 2018, when the law was to be changed (Osborne & Fogel, 2017). In addition, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments were asked to consider the report, but the recommendations were not binding.
Therefore, even after the report was released, the authorities retained tight control over the sales and cultivation of cannabis. In 2016, PM Justin Trudeau told the police to maintain the prohibition laws, stating that the aim was to protect minors from accessing the substance and prohibit criminals from making profits through the marijuana business (Boyd, 2017). In response, police conducted many raids and made several home searchers. Several individuals and businesses were charged for trading and trafficking marijuana, and some were even convicted (Decorte et al., 2020). In their response, the First Nations chiefs, representing the indigenous Canadians, attended the Assembly of First Nations, where it was unanimously agreed that the distribution of the substance on the traditional lands was to be under the control of the First Nations governments rather than the provinces.
Finally, the House of Commons passed Bill C-45 in May 2018, making the first step towards the passage of the law. The Senate debated the bill and passed an amendment that outlawed band-stretching (sale and display of substance-related merchandise). Nevertheless, the House of Commons voted against this amendment. The Senate finally passed Bill C-45 on 19th June, and then PM Trudeau signed it into law on 17th October the same year (Potter & Weinstock, 2019). Therefore, Canada became the second country after Uruguay to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Consequently, the legalization process took about seventeen years, whereas the passing and enacting the final legalization law on substance use took about three years (Bowal et al., 2020). As expected, the process received both appraisal and criticism from various quarters (Potter & Weinstock, 2019). The citizens, in particular, participated in the debate through social media, the mainstream media, polls, and other channels. While most opinion polls indicated that the majority of the Canadian population supported the bill, various organizations and individuals criticized the entire process. In particular, the major issue was the possible access of the substance by minors, especially because it is not easy to fully control the substance once in the market.
Summary of the Regulation on the Cannabis Act
The Cannabis Act 2018 seeks to maintain a strict legal framework as a means of controlling the sale, production, distribution, use, and possession of cannabis and products developed from the substance in Canada. Specifically, the law was established to achieve three goals. First, the law seeks to keep cannabis and products from the substance from minors throughout the country. Secondly, the law aims to prevent criminals from profiting from the cannabis business (Caulkins et al., 2016). Finally, the law wants to ensure safe use of the substance by giving adults access to legalized cannabis and its products. Some restrictions, therefore, have been established within the law to achieve these objectives.
Subject to the law, adults aged 18 and above can only possess a maximum of 30 grams of legal marijuana, whether dried or in another form. Secondly, adults can only share a maximum of 30 grams with other adults. Access to fresh or dried cannabis and cannabis oil is only allowed from retailers licensed by provincial governments (Caulkins et al., 2016). In remote areas where a regulated retail framework is lacking, adults are allowed to purchase the substance online from producers with federally issued licenses. In terms of cultivation, only licensed growers can cultivate cannabis and should purchase seeds or seedlings from licensed issuers. In addition, cultivators should only plan a maximum of 4 plants per household for personal consumption. At home, people are allowed to use cannabis to make such products as food and beverages, provided that they do not use organic solvents to concentrate the cannabis ingredients in the process.
Selling cannabis and its products to minors is illegal, and any person violating this rule will serve a maximum jail term of 14 years (Bowal et al., 2020). There are two offenses: using a minor to commit an offense related to cannabis and selling to or giving minors cannabis and its products. In addition, the law prohibits the promotion of cannabis or enticing young people to consume it. Under the law, it is illegal to develop products appealing to minors, labeling and packaging cannabis in a manner that attracts the youth, and selling the product to young people through automatic vendor machines or displays. Violating these rules attracts a fine of up to $5 million or a jail term of 3 years (Potter & Weinstock, 2019). All these rules are designed to discourage minors from consuming cannabis at all costs.
The similarity between the Alcohol/ Drinking Laws and Cannabis Act
Both alcohol and cannabis are highly regulated substances in Canada. The control laws are different in their approach to manage the use of both substances, but there are a few similarities worth analyzing. First, people are allowed to consume as much as they want in the comfort of their homes in both cases. For alcohol, one can and drink as much as possible at home. For cannabis, people can smoke as much as they want, but they can only grow four plants per private residence. At work, people are not allowed to consume either alcohol or cannabis, but this depends on the employer’s rules and regulations (Decorte et al., 2020). In private care, the laws allow people to transport as much alcohol as they can as long as it is sealed to keep it out of reach. In the same way, transporting the maximum allowed amount of cannabis in a car is allowed as long as the product is sealed and out of reach. In addition, laws strictly prohibit the use of both alcohol and cannabis by people below the age of 18, and facilitating their access means one is guilty and punishable by law.
Pros and Cons of the Cannabis Act of Canada
Legalizing the use of marijuana has several benefits to the user, society, and the country in general. First, access to cannabis means that people can easily use the substance to help ease pain in patients at home (Hajizadeh, 2016). It eliminates the need to purchase chemical drugs to ease the pain that can easily be solved with medical marijuana. In addition, when grown at home, people save money that could be used to purchase drugs for relieving pain. Secondly, legalizing marijuana means destroying the black market that existed before the law was passed. The black market is not controlled and is controlled by criminals. Therefore, it is easy for minors to access cannabis in the drug market but difficult when it is standardized as a common product (Hajizadeh, 2016). In addition, destroying the black market and standardizing marijuana implies collecting more taxes as it is now a common trade item. Furthermore, marijuana is not known to cause certain diseases and conditions that other smoked products such as tobacco causes in humans. For example, tobacco smoking causes various forms of cancer such as mouth, throat, and lung cancers. Therefore, marijuana can be a better alternative because it is smoked and can help people avoid tobacco.
Nevertheless, there are some negative impacts of making marijuana a legal product. For example, people react differently to the consumption of marijuana. In some people, it might cause hallucinations and other negative effects and even cause some mental issues if used excessively (Hajizadeh, 2016). Second, some people become less productive at work when they are under the influence of cannabis. Third, legalization means that people can plant marijuana at home, which gives minors easy access as parents cannot fully control their behaviors.
From an analytical perspective, it is evident that the process of legalizing marijuana in Canada took much effort and time. Indeed, prohibition and banning marijuana in the country, like many other nations across the world, was based on wrongful beliefs and poor research. One wonders why the law was very strict in prohibiting a substance that has minor impacts on adult users while allowing the use of the more lethal drugs like tobacco. Furthermore, it is clear that the current state of legalization of marijuana in Canada and beyond is based on adequate scientific research on its impacts on adult users when the consumption is moderate.
Bowal, P., Kisska‐Schulze, K., Haigh, R., & Ng, A. (2020). Regulating cannabis: A comparative exploration of Canadian legalization. American Business Law Journal, 57(4), 677-733. Web.
Boyd, S. C. (2017). Busted: An illustrated history of drug prohibition in Canada. Fernwood Publishing.
Caulkins, J. P., Kilmer, B., & Kleiman, M. (2016). Marijuana legalization: What everyone needs to know. Oxford University Press.
Decorte, T., Lenton, S., & Wilkins, C. (2020). Legalizing cannabis: Experiences, lessons and scenarios. Taylor & Francis.
Hajizadeh, M. (2016). Legalizing and regulating marijuana in Canada: Review of potential economic, social, and health impacts. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 5(8), 453–456.
Osborne, G. B., & Fogel, C. (2017). Perspectives on cannabis legalization among Canadian recreational users. Contemporary Drug Problems, 44(1), 12-31.
Potter, A., P., & Weinstock, D. (2019). High time: The legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada. McGill-Queen’s University Press.