The Process of Pot

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When Justin Trudeau was first elected with a huge majority in October 2015, becoming Canada’s second youngest Prime Minister, one of his main campaign promises was to make marijuana a legal recreational substance, available to the large population who currently get it on the black market. The intent is to stamp out the ‘dealers’ and allow the public to finally have access to something that, according to a forum poll conducted by telephone,  20% of the country already uses and 30% of the country would use if sold legally in retail outlets.

Despite the law criminalizing marijuana unless you have a medical cannabis card from a doctor, Canada consumes the most pot of any industrialized country in the world so what is taking the Trudeau Government so long?

In a recent article published by Newsweek, one of the issues prolonging the process concerns three international treaties that were signed by previous governments and that criminalized the possession and production of marijuana.  These treaties were signed over three decades from the 1960s to the 1980s and were drafted by the UN among others. To modify or even leave the treaty, Canada would need to explain why to the other countries and provide a framework to tell the world how it plans to move forward on this issue.

Another bit of red tape that’s harshing the buzz of tokers everywhere is the lengthy amount of time it’s taking to create a framework for how marijuana will be sold.  Many parties, including major corporations, local businesses, medical marijuana producers and the Provinces themselves, have chimed in on how best to do this.  Some of the options include selling them in already existing liquor outlets like the LCBO in Ontario. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is on board with this plan, saying that it “makes a lot of sense.” On the other hand, John Stinton, CEO of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, disagrees, saying that liquor store customers don’t want to leave “smelling like marijuana.”

Even Canada’s largest drug store retailer, Shoppers Drug Mart, has made preliminary inquiries about distributing marijuana products throughout their network of 1,300 stores across the country. Considering they already know how to regulate many drugs, they say that they are “the safest option.”

In the meantime, Prime Minister Trudeau has said that the process is ongoing and that he disagrees with the option of straight decriminalization.  In an interview with Trudeau conducted by News1130 in Vancouver, he went on record saying “I think decriminalization is a bad idea because it doesn’t do anything to make it more difficult for young people to access it, and it doesn’t do anything in terms of keeping the black market and the criminal organizations from profiting from it.” Trudeau continued, “That’s why I believe in control and regulation that actually will do the protection of public safety and of minors that we need. And in the meantime, it’s still illegal.”

However long the process takes, Canadians are optimistic that the end of cannabis prohibition is close.  In 2012, an Angus Reid Survey found that more than 57% of Canadians were in favour of legalization, and the number has increased since then, by some estimations, to 68% of the whole nation.

Province by Province the numbers don’t lie. In a recent poll conducted by The Globe & Mail and Nanos Research, 75% of people in BC favour legalization and regulation for recreational use, with Ontario at 70.8%, Quebec at 68.1%. The Prairies were the lowest at 54.6% support but still a majority.  With the Liberals and Justin taking home almost 40% of the vote for their win last October, one just has to do the math to figure out that this is one promise Trudeau needs to keep.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock

About Author

Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.

  • Barry Jordan

    So why didn’t Trudeau bring us these obstacles during his campaign? It strikes me as very disingenuous to run on the platform of legalization and then to throw his hands up once elected, saying nothing changes until we get approval from the UN. I would be PISSED if I had voted for him and would demand decriminalization during the transitional period at the very least. Protecting kids is great, but how about not fucking up the lives of thousands of others for no good reason too.