Canada is ill prepared for an open marijuana market and the major societal change it could bring.
Later this week, Canada will begin its experiment with the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. After Justin Trudeau successfully campaigned as Liberal leader to legalize pot, the conversation has shifted from whether the country should do it, to how it should be done.
That “how” is still very much up in the air. Trudeau, as Prime Minister, did the easy work. The harder part is still to come.
The House of Commons also had an easy task in passing the legislation; the provinces were left to shoulder the tough stuff, such as rules concerning distribution, personal cultivation, and age limits.
In some cases, the provinces are on the same page. When it comes to the age rules, most provinces set the age at 19. Only Quebec and Alberta differed, both setting theirs at 18.
But when it comes to personal cultivation of plants, the split is more significant. A number of provinces, such as Ontario, Alberta, and most of the Maritimes will allow people to grow four plants per household; Quebec, Manitoba, and Nunavut have completely prohibited personal cultivation.
One unfortunate miscalculation that most provinces have in common is their lack of robust education campaigns ready for launch at the time of legalization.
It’s one thing to say marijuana is legal. It’s another to give people the toolkit to understand how best to navigate this new terrain.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some people think it’s not a big deal to drive while stoned–on the contrary, it is, and you can be charged.
There are others who think there are no serious health risks associated with smoking marijuana. That’s not true.
“Marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing substances as tobacco smoke,” notes the Canadian Cancer Society.
Then there is the enforcement issue. Only 833 police officers across Canada have so far received specialized drug recognition training to prepare them to enforce impaired driving laws.
As a country, Canada is ill prepared for this major societal change. Then again, it’s not like it was ever going to be a walk in the park.
There will be mistakes made. We’ll likely discover that some laws will require revisions.
Canada’s experiment will be trial and error. And they shouldn’t shy away from identifying those errors and fixing them.