OTTAWA – If it becomes legal on Wednesday to buy marijuana for recreational purposes, rather than on the order of the doctor, the event could be a disappointment for many Canadians. In Ontario, the most populous province, the first legal cannabis buyers will only be online shoppers.
Like many things in Canada, just what legal marijuana means varies by province. However, there is no doubt that the country's broken and incompletely prepared system will nevertheless bring about significant social, economic and legal changes and challenges. Canada is the first major industrial landscape to accept this. His success or failure with legal recreational marijuana will likely become a model or a warning to the rest of the world.
My work in this file actually goes back much further. Under court orders, a previous conservative government reluctantly set up a limited legal medical marijuana system in 2001 and significantly extended the process five years ago.
However, this week's change will cover all that, and that is very much part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's political agenda. During the 2015 election campaign, he promised to legalize marijuana by July 1, a deadline that made politics in Canada's unelected Senate impossible.
[FutureReportontheLegalizationofMarjuanainCanadaandOtherCanadianNewsonOurWeekly Canada Letter Newsletter .]
That promise was at best a smaller factor in Mr. Trudeau's electoral success. And the Canadians were always mixed in their views on legalization. To address these concerns, the government stresses that its legalization is not about promoting cannabis use among Canadians. Instead, Mr. Trudeau and his ministers used their law to ruin people's lives for marijuana-related criminal records and as a better way to keep marijuana away from children and benefit from its sale outside organized crime.
As I reported this week, if everything goes according to the government's plan, biker gangs and other organized criminal groups will be replaced by a brand new, heavily regulated, multi-billion dollar industry. Nobody really knows how big their market will be and of course the newly hatched industry has expansive forecasts. But there is a baseline: government statisticians calculate that Canadians spend about $ 5.7 billion on marijuana each year, about 90 percent of it on the black market.
In many ways, it often feels like I went back to the US in the late 1990s when I talked about tech startups. The market value of each of the three largest players in Big Weed is well over $ 10 billion. But all of these companies are reporting losses of several million dollars from their current medical marijuana businesses. The question now is whether some of these companies will hit the fate of many tech firms after the dotcom bubble bursts and how many will meet the dreams of their investors.
There is confusion around the system as a whole . In most countries of the country, the actual business will initially be in short supply. The rules about where you can smoke marijuana will also vary. In some provinces, its use – such as alcohol – in public places will not be permitted. In other countries, it is legal wherever smoking is allowed, even if you stroll down the street. (Undoubtedly, someone will make an app for travelers who want to keep things in order.)
Driving drugs has long been a crime in Canada. Although the penalties have since been increased, the government has admitted that the police are lagging behind in things like the blood test systems necessary for the indictment. It also does not appear that the police will go to great lengths to close the illegal marijuana shops that have appeared in many cities.
Stoned students and employees are nothing new, especially among young Canadians who are among the largest pot users in the world. But many Canadians fear that legalization will broaden usage. And it adds another fold to the conversations about marijuana between parents and their children.
Something in the discussion here in Canada has lost its health implications. While much remains unknown, no medical group in Canada advocates the regular use of marijuana. Apart from the negative effects of smoking, there are concerns about how marijuana alters the brains of users under the age of 25.
This week, an editorial in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association called on Mr. Trudeau to revise legalization if it leads to more marijuana. But those marijuana companies I've visited can only justify their dizzying stock prices by promoting the use of their products. I will follow exactly who wins this conflict.