Following 95 years of prohibition, weed is once again legal in Canada. It is another triumph of a controversial right, of which there are plenty in the land of hockey, maples and beavers. Medical use has been allowed since 2001, and now even those who want to smoke marijuana for fun can do it in broad daylight without being punished – and many have already celebrated the change with a few puffs.
A social experiment
The change in legislation is deemed a social experiment: while the majority of Canadians have spoken in favor of legalization, it remains unknown what implications the move may have, given how popular it is now, after many official outlets opened their doors to eager pot lovers.
All the thirteen provinces and territories of the country are given an opportunity to set their own rules as to where cannabis may be available for sale and where its users will be able to smoke it.
Depending on what province it is, weed will be available in both private stores and those run by the government. In some regions, there will be only government outlets, others will have only private ones, and some will tolerate both.
The new law allows consumption of fresh/dried flower, plants, oil and seeds, with no room for edibles: these are expected to hit the lucrative market next year, and now remain a type of products lying within the domain of the black market players. As to the latter, not all illegal stores have closed: some offer products that are not available yet, others hope for being legalized.
Is legal Canadian weed the same as the one offered on the black market?
Not exactly. The legal marijuana contains less THC, the culprit notorious for the infamous mind-altering effects.
Children and teenagers will not be allowed to smoke weed: only those who have reached the age of 19 (or 18, in Quebec) are given the right. Those who violate the rule and supply those under legal age with marijuana will be subject to a punishment, which can be as severe as 14 years of imprisonment.
As to the amount of marijuana possessed per person, the figure is 30 grams, which equals to roughly 60 joints. Canadians can now grow their own pots, up to 4 of them per household. Manitoba and Quebec are the only exceptions which prohibit DIY cannabis. Another curious law applies in British Columbia: if you want to grow your own marijuana, you must make sure it is not visible from public spaces. Should you fail to hide your plantation, you will be subject to three months of imprisonment or a fine of 5,000 Canadian dollars.
Another thing to remember is that smoking marijuana in the workplace remains illegal. Also, in some provinces it is banned in public areas, streets and parks.
Driving while high is going to be a problem, as the policy regarding tests is still confusing. It is reported that the police will use saliva tests and standard means of determining whether a driver is sober, but it is also said that all suspected drivers will have to be given a blood test. Those who are caught driving while high will have to pay a fine and spend as many as 5 years in jail if nothing bad happens as a result of such driving, and a life sentence is for cases when driving resulted in someone’s death.
Another edge of the sword
Not everyone is happy, though. All over the country, rental landlords and hotel owners are prohibiting marijuana use. The Canadian Medical Association Journal warned that it is dangerous to forget about the addiction marijuana can cause, and that legalization can lead to an increased popularity of the bad habit. In an attempt to confront the black market, the government is going to sacrifice the health of its people. Cannabis, besides being capable of causing addiction, can lead to serious mental health problems.
It is unknown how the social experiment will end, but there is no doubt that the case will be a reason for cannabis supporters in other countries to try to legalize weed in their own homeland. And Americans will undoubtedly flood the streets of their northern neighbor seeking a place where they can indulge in marijuana without being punished – something that is definitely part of the economic benefits forecast by the government.