This is the second nation of the world after Uruguay to regulate cannabis as a legal product – and the first G7 country. Read our article and watch our video interview with a Canadian activist!
In an age of anxiety, when the world is falling into a dangerous state of apathy and seems to loose its enthusiasm for social progress and democracy, it is reassuring to see such a historic move by the Canadian government to end 95 years of cannabis prohibition. Today the Cannabis Act, which was passed by the Senate in March, has come into effect. This means that each Canadian citizen, older than 18, has the right to possess cannabis if it does not exceed 30 grams. Individuals are permitted to grow up to four plants for their own use. Provinces and territories are responsible for setting up a system of regulation. Some will do this in a more liberal, others in a more restrictive way. Prime minister Justin Trudeau announced that they will look into pardons for those convicted of cannabis related crimes.
Watch our interview with Jenna Bobenna, an activist of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy!
The main argument used by the Canadian government to regulate the cannabis market was to protect the kids. “It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that,” tweeted Trudeau. Frankly, I am not sure if legalisation is a way to “protect the kids” from cannabis. The adults like it or not, legal or illegal, many teens will be always ready to experiment with mind altering substances. So we should be careful not to set too high expectations – but with honest drug education and with access to a broad range of psychosocial services we can do a lot to support young people to lead a healthy and meaningful life.
The real benefit of the legal cannabis market will be to end a century of hypocrisy and end the war on people who use, grow or sell a plant that can be used responsibly by adults without causing much harms to themselves or the environment. Although it won’t kill the black market immediately, it will provide a safer, reliable alternative to buy these products without enriching criminal organisations but generating tax revenues to support education, research and health care. There are many open questions, for example, how will the various regulation systems in the provinces work. But the benefit of legal regulation is that it is not a rigid system like prohibition – it can be adjusted to local needs and changes.
Cannabis legalisation is not the everything – Canada has still a lot to do to reform its drug policies. It needs to scale up harm reduction services to end the terrible overdose epidemic, to decriminalise the use of all drugs and to provide safer access to opioids to those people who would otherwise use dangerous black market drugs. (Watch our video from the Stimulus conference in Edmonton!) But for us, living in countries where cannabis is still illegal, where drug consumption rooms are still wishful thinking, Canada is a beacon of hope.
Article and reporter: Peter Sarosi
Video: Istvan Gabor Takacs