From October 17, 2018, Canadian residents will be able to consume marijuana in Canada for recreational purposes without facing any legal penalties for doing so.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 20, 2018, and the fact that this legislation will take effect almost three years to the day since Trudeau’s Liberal Party swept to power in 2015 is fitting. After all, many Canadians cite Trudeau’s pre-election promise to legalize marijuana in Canada as being a policy issue that cut most acutely through the election campaign noise to resonate with them, especially if they happened to be a younger voter.
It is unsurprising that this election promise was particularly popular with the much coveted ‘youth vote’, and the fact that a 2016 online poll found that Trudeau’s Liberal Party ended up securing 45 percent of the 18-25 year old demographic highlights the popularity he experienced among this demographic. The poll also found that the Liberals were successful in winning more youth votes than any other party in every Canadian province, including the often Conservative-leaning Alberta.
There is little doubt the the legalization of marijuana in Canada is a popular decision favoured by many Canadians, and one that helped propel Trudeau and the Liberal Party to the parliamentary majority it currently enjoys. However, with less than three months to go until marijuana becomes legal in Canada, it is important to examine what the legalization will look like in practice.
What Canada’s marijuana legislation means for you
From a practical perspective, the new marijuana legalization legislation (Bill C-45) means that from October 17 Canadians will be permitted to:
- Purchase a range of marijuana-based products — including fresh and dried marijuana, as well as marijuana oils, plants and seeds for cultivation — from either provincial or territorial regulated retailer or a federally licenced producer.
- Possess up to 30 grams of dried legal marijuana or its equivalent in public.
- Share up to 30 grams of legal marijuana, legal marijuana products or equivalent with other adults.
- Cultivate up to four marijuana plants at home, with a maximum of four plants per household. However, it should be noted that both the Quebec and Manitoba provincial governments have opted not to extend this provision to their residents.
- Prepare a range of marijuana-based products, including edibles, at home so long as no dangerous organic solvents are used. Again, it must be noted that marijuana edibles will, most likely, not be legalized until 2019 because of a number of legislative amendments to Bill C-45.
- Much like cigarettes, marijuana usage will encounter many of the same barriers that public smoking has encountered in recent years. Similarly, when it comes to smoking marijuana at work, you need to remember that your employer has the final say on this issue.
- Regardless of the quantity of marijuana in question, it is illegal for non-licenced individuals to sell this drug to another adult. Doing so could see you facing a $5,000 fine, or up to 14 years in jail. The same punishment could befall any person who attempts to provide a minor with marijuana.
Given the strength of provincial governments within the Canadian federal system, it should come as no surprise that despite the fact that the federal government was responsible for the bill that legalized recreational marijuana, the 10 provincial and three territorial governments have the power to set their own rules regarding the implementation of this legislation. The differences in implementation practices vary among the provinces and territories, with both minor and major variations expected.
In terms of age-limits, much like alcohol, 18 year olds in Quebec and Alberta will be able to purchase marijuana, while their 18 year-old peers in all other Canadian provinces will have to wait until they’re 19 to avail of this opportunity. Similarly, if you want to grow marijuana in your own home, then you can lovingly nurture up to four plants, provided you are not resident of Manitoba or Quebec where this provision has not been put in place.
Finally, some provinces — Quebec, Yukon and all Atlantic Provinces bar Newfoundland and Labrador — will control the sale of marijuana through government controlled stores similar to the SAQ in Quebec, while other provinces (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) will allow private retailers to control the market. A hybrid model will be in place in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and Northwest Territories, which will see private ‘brick and mortar’ stores combining with government-run online vendors for the sale of marijuana.
A booming market?
Regardless of how your province chooses to control the sale of marijuana, the reality is that it looks set to be a booming sector in Canada for many years to come. Following a detailed survey of residents across Canada between March 6 and March 20, 2018, account firm Deloitte has predicted that in 2019 Canadians will spend up to $7 billion on marijuana and marijuana-based products. This total includes looks set to see the consumption of the legalized drug increase by 35 percent, but despite it’s soon-to-be legal status, Deloitte still predicts that illegal sales will still constitute anywhere from $510 million to $1.04 billion dollars of total sales.
Deloitte predicts that the legalization of marijuana will result in more 35-54 year olds entering the legal market, with the majority of this cohort expected to consume marijuana on average only once a month. A disparity is also expected on a provincial level with more people in Western Canada and in the Atlantic provinces predicted to purchase marijuana legally, while a slight majority of Quebec residents (53 percent) mooted to continue their access to marijuana illegally.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
The marijuana industry looks set to create thousands of jobs in a variety of sectors across Canada. The legalization of marijuana has led to a proliferation of new marijuana production companies, as well as an expansion of existing businesses, and this rapidly-growing sector shows no sign of abating. Evidence of this surge in demand for marijuana-related positions in Canada has seen Cannabis At Work — a staffing agency dedicated to facilitating employment needs in this burgeoning industry — inundated with job openings in sectors as diverse as marijuana growing and production to marketing and sales.
Much like the pioneers who travelled north to the Yukon in search of gold a century ago, there appears to be a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs who are looking to get actively involved in an industry at the ground-floor. After all, this sector has been valued as highly as $23 billion dollars by Deloitte when production, sales, transportation, security, tourism and taxation are taken into account.
However, despite the many financial and cultural opportunities that the ever-expanding marijuana industry represent, the reality is that certain issues remain. One of the biggest problems that marijuana production companies face is an experience deficit when it comes to the growth and production of the drug. Until now almost all marijuana in Canada was produced illegally, and this has made it difficult for some businesses to find the perfect candidates to fill vacancies that they have. Another issue that some in the marijuana sector are apprehensive about is cross-border travel, particularly to and from the United States.
United States President Donald Trump has made a southern border wall one of his main political priorities before and after taking office in January 2017. However, with the legalization of marijuana less than three months away in Canada, some believe that a similar measure may be necessary to prevent the spread of marijuana in Canada moving south from the northern border.
There is no doubt that this point of view is on the extreme end of the spectrum, but immigration lawyers have issued a strong word of warning to residents of Canada travelling to the US; if you admit to using marijuana in Canada to a United States border agent, then you run the risk of not being allowed into the US, and you could even be banned for life.
The government of Canada has maintained that dialogue with its US counterparts has been productive and stressed that US border agents do not plan on changing their primary inspection questions. That said, if US border agents have reason to believe that a visitor from Canada to the US has recently consumed marijuana or related products, then they will, most likely, pursue a more aggressive line of questioning.
Finally, despite certain requests to do so, the government of Canada has given no indication that it will enact an amnesty for any persons found guilty of cannabis possession under current or past legislation. So, until the new law comes into effect on October 17, the current Controlled Drugs and Substances Act remains in place across Canada.
Leading from the front
The fact that Canada is only the second country after Uruguay in 2013 to legalize marijuana is a testament to the sheer scale of this endeavor from both a legal and social perspective. Undoubtedly, certain challenges will exist, particularly in the early stages of the process. However, if the benefits are to be believed then Canada has a really opportunity to be an international leader on the provision of safe, secure and legal recreational marijuana.