What can Australia learn from Canada’s proposal to legalize recreational cannabis
Canada has had nationwide legal medical marijuana since 2001. This alone has put them at the forefront of the countries which are seen as ‘pro marijuana’ for nearly 20 years now. However, recent years have seen several US states do the what many marijuana proponents thought might never happen; the legalization of recreational marijuana in the USA.
In the wake of the successful implementation of legal, recreational use, in US states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon and 6 others, Canada’s highly liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, promised to remove remaining barriers, and legislate to legalese the recreational use of cannabis, for the entire country, as an election promise in 2015.
Now, in 2018, Trudeau’s promise could come to fruition as early as July of this year. A bill called C-45, proposed by the Prime Minister, would legalize recreational use throughout the country, and put Canada on a par with, perhaps ahead of, the US.
FACT: Nationwide recreational legalization could be a landmark decision for Canada but there are still some problems to deal with, positives and negatives have to be examined.
The problems Canada has, finalizing C45 (Their new legal cannabis laws)
Before Trudeau’s proposed ‘C45’ (legalize marijuana ) bill is turned in to law, there are some things the country needs to consider. It would be reasonable to assume that a bill such as this one, which has already been nearly 4 years in the making, would be as thoroughly thought through as would be required by the real world circumstances. Unfortunately, the truth is that it may be a rush to have the final version, with all the required compromises and agreements in place for the date Trudeau promised his citizens. Nationwide recreational legalization could be a landmark decision for Canada but there are still some problems to deal with, positives and negatives have to be examined.
Many people, among them members of the Canadian parliament, have expressed concerns that the bill itself has unanswered questions and ramifications which have not yet been fully thought through. Additionally, several US officials have issued words of warning to Canada, given their own first hand experience with the complexities of legalizing cannabis.
One issue that the C-45 bill claims it will fix, is the illegal sale of marijuana through the black market. That’s not precisely the experience the US government has had with contraband cannabis, in legal cannabis states. Statistics show that 30 percent of Marijuana sales in Colorado (one of the first states to legalize recreational consumption) are still illegally performed on the black market. It seems, given the US’s experience, legalization isn’t going to ‘magically’ eradicate the black market activity in Canada. Those precluded from purchase on grounds of their age, and those who prefer cheaper, higher intensity cannabis are just two of the groups which find value in the illegal purchase of the product. Each of these factors needs to be considered in the Canadian legislation.
Another consideration point is that the risk to minors created by the change. Emergency room visits for children have increased in states which have legitimized recreational marijuana, as a result of the accidental overconsumption consumption of edibles. Often, edibles, (which are, as the name suggests, edible products with cannabis content,) come in the form of Gummy bears, Gummy worms, or Lollipops. Despite age limits having been put in place on who can buy and legally possess them, the markers on packages do not appear to have stopped instances of carelessness, or for that matter, reduced the creativity and ingenuity of children, who somehow appear to get a hold of them anyway. This should not be a surprise in a discussion about Gummies and, again, requires some serious consideration in the Canadian bill.
Then there is the matter of those who have been convicted for a criminal offense related to cannabis since the time it was made illegal in Canada, in the 1920s. Some of these individuals, since the end of their case, have built, albeit illegally, businesses in marijuana sales and paid the price. Unfortunately, since having a criminal record is a barrier to being provided a permit to sell marijuana. Perhaps ironically, those who have the most experience with cannabis sales will find it hardest to procure a license to sell it. The bill must contend with these people, too.
ECONOMICS: Statistics show that 30 percent of Marijuana sales in Colorado (one of the first states to legalize recreational consumption) are still illegally performed on the black market.
It’s not all bad news – the positives Australia can take from Canada and the US
There are positives which have come from the American experience, too. Many of those who currently grow and sell what is an illegal product are among the biggest proponents of the C45 bill. If the bill does lead to legalization, those who have not been convicted of an offense related to cannabis could well obtain permits which legitimatize their businesses. The US shows that legal cannabis creates economic growth and jobs in the new industry.
Independent growers could have the chance to set up real business in the ‘light of day’ and get the chance to showcase their expert skills in a way that can be celebrated.
If Colorado’s experience is anything to go by, criminal indictments and jail stays for drug offenders are likely to fall considerably, once legalization takes place. Taxpayers, on the other hand wouldn’t be sinking their hard earned tax dollars into ineffectual policies: jailing people whose only offense is selling or growing marijuana. Further, additional tax revenue from legal sales could help a broad cross section of the population, not just those involved in the cannabis industry. Experience in Colorado shows that this kind of tax revenue can be deliberately targeted towards the sort of community projects that people want to see – improvement in drug educational facilities, as well as High School infrastructure, for example.
Bringing it all together for Australia
As Australia contemplates changing cannabis laws ourselves, we can certainly stand to learn from things that have already taken place in the US and the tribulations undertaken by Canadian lawmakers. Change, especially legislative change, on such an emotive subject, is always hard, but sometimes the end result is worth the struggle.
Frederick Douglas said, “if there is no struggle, there is no progress”. The process of changing cannabis laws, and bringing Australia into a position where it can learn from the problems and garner the benefits might be worth the time invested, especially if the process can be shortcut by learning from the progress of C45.