Canada Legalizes Marijuana. Here Are the Highlights.

Canada Legalizes Marijuana. Here Are the Highlights.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Canada. Canada will become the first G7 country to legalize marijuana country-wide.

If you've been following me for awhile, then you know hat this is a topic that I have geat interest in from a health perspective and a political angle. Two of my more popular posts from last year:  Why I didn’t post about 420 on 4/20 (May 5, 2016), My Thoughts on Toronto’s Pot Dispensaries (June 6, 2016). In the latter, I noted that were over 100 dispensaries in Toronto at the time. This number has drastically reduced due to several factors, including competition, police intervention, and landlord issues. Many dispensary owners got excited at the prospect of legalization and jumped ahead, even though the federal announcement, based on Trudeau's campaign promises, took over a year

In my post from June last year I also noted that I was going to create a 4-6 week email course, which is still sitting in a draft form. The process got overwhelming while I was planning it but it is still on my radar.

In this post, I  provide the highlights of Canada's legalization plan.

The purpose of Canada's new marijuana plan

It's not a matter of “getting with the times” or making it easier to get your medicine, both of which I think are benefits. The government is positioning its plan as a way to reduce the role of criminal organizations in the marijuana market and limiting the availability of the drug to youth. In other words, dealers, and dealers selling to kids.

Who will be able to purchase, possess, and consume marijuana?

The new federal law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy marijuana. Provinces can set a higher minimum age. The minimum age requirement to buy alcohol is 19 in all provinces except Quebec, where it's 18, so provinces might choose to make 19 the age minimum for pot at well.

Where will you be allowed to buy marijuana?

Marijuana will be allowed to be bought by mail or in provincially regulated retail spaces. Note the emphasis on “provincially regulated”. Currently, individuals with medical marijuana licenses can get mail order pot from provincially licensed growers.

The federal government will license and regulate growers, but each of Canada’s provinces will need to decide exactly how marijuana will be distributed and sold. A model similar to our Liquor Control Board (LCBO) stores could be likely. There's also been a discussion of licensing existing drug stores.

Where will stores get their marijuana?

All product sold will be produced by federally-approved growers.

The government says that this will ensure product quality and safety, but this has been an issue before. One side of the argument – largely made by licensed producers – is that with a local, illegal dispensary, you could be getting a product with mold, pesticides, and other nasty things. However, a few months ago Health Canada faced controversy because those very producers were selling tainted marijuana. As a result, patients experienced pain, nausea, vomiting, rashes and other reactions.

A senior Health Canada official acknowledged that even though the government prohibits the use of potentially harmful chemicals such as myclobutanil, known to emit hydrogen cyanide when heated, the department had not been testing cannabis growers to ensure that they weren't using it or any other pesticides. Health Canada claimed that they expected companies to do their own testing. Evidently, they weren't. Government-approved growers have become the marijuana equivalent of big pharma, lobbying against small family operations, dispensaries and for some big growers, legalization.

Another analogy: Grocery items bought at the farmers' market vs. items bought at a supermarket. Big companies often have recalls. Last week, there was a national recall of flour due to E. coli contamination after 26 people across the country got sick. Robin Hood and other companies were part of the recall. Other recalls in the past include those on packaged vegetables, bottled juice, packaged meat and other packaged products. However, small farmers with small operations generally don't have these issues. Small marijuana growers who are growing organically to help a population won't have the same issues as the large warehouse producers who are publicly traded on the stock exchange. Smaller operations take more care. Organic growing practices with natural ways to repel pests are important for a medicinal plant.

Marijuana vape

What forms of cannabis will be legal to buy?

Fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils and seeds and plants for cultivation (see below).

What about edibles?

The sales of edibles aren't included under current legalization plans but will be legalized at a later date.

Individuals will be able to make edibles at home, for personal use. Bake those brownies but keep them to yourself.

What will the marijuana possession limit be?

The possession limit of dried cannabis would be set at 30 grams.

The new legislation will also allow individuals to grow up to four plants at home.

How much will marijuana cost?

It’s important the government keep the prices of the legal pot low enough to compete with the black market. It will likely be priced on a per-gram basis, just like your dealer does.

No one knows yet, but economics experts point out that the government should keep the prices of the legal pot low enough to compete with the black market, which means not overtaxing it. The tobacco industry has seen this happen: Taxes on cigarettes increase and people turn to the black market, increasing illegal sales. People like to save money where possible (I won't ramble about quitting smoking to save money and maintain health – if you smoke, you know it's bad for you and that it's costing you money).

When I was in high school there was a cafe that illegally sold cigarettes under the counter to minors. Although it's not black market, I know people who buy cheap smokes from Indian reservations just off the highway, where they don't tax their cigarettes. The cost of marijuana would ideally compete.

What marijuana activity can get you into legal trouble

Anyone caught providing cannabis to minors can face up to 14 years in jail. Stop smoking up the teenaged neighbour. While you might allow your child a bit of wine, keep your teenagers away from your pot stash.

Driving with THC in your system, like drunk driving. I know people who drive well after consuming cannabis, but better safe than sorry. Sorry has potential consequences that you don't want. The new legislation will allow for roadside saliva testing to detect drug-impaired drivers. Drivers with a small amount of THC in their blood would face a fine of up to $1,000, while those with high levels (or those who also have alcohol in their blood) would face up to 10 years in jail.

Some of my favourite memories from when was 19 include hotboxing at the drive-in, but I was young and less knowledgeable then. I don't recommend it. Hotbox your bathroom and chill with Netflix instead. Pot, Netflix, and chill.

When will marijuana be legal in Canada?

Marijuana will be legal in Canada by July 2018.

What about medical use of marijuana in Canada?

The existing program for access to medical marijuana would continue as is. You get a prescription from your doctor and then a federally-licensed grower “fills it” by mail or courier.

This begs the question: If a person needs pot as medicine, wouldn't it be more convenient and quicker for them to get it at their local retail store?

Furthermore, here's an interesting quote from Liberal MP Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief:

“It is not our intent to promote the use of this drug. In every other jurisdiction that has gone down the road of legalization, they focused primarily on a commercial regulatory framework. In Canada … it’s a public-health framework.”

My opinion: By legalizing it, the government is promoting it, but no more than it already is. Politicizing the issue promotes it. Telling people not to smoke pot promotes it. Every time the issue is in the news, it's promotion. Every image of marijuana is an advertisement.  If it's a true public health framework, I think that there must be public education about cannabis as medicine, and public education about recreational vs. medical use, along with the risks associated with addiction. Not that the public is educated about painkiller addiction or addiction to other prescription medicine.

I think it makes sense to promote it as a medical intervention to relieve your aches, pains, anxiety etc.  Marijuana is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. Coffee and sugar are drugs. Still, it's a step in the right direction.

marijuana medicine

Final notes:

What about marijuana legalization in the U.S.?

According to Rolling Stone magazine: “In the U.S., though 29 states have some sort of legalization program, cannabis remains federally illegal, including for medical use. Due largely to this restriction, America's legal cannabis industry has grown into a patchwork Frankenstein monster: each state has had to determine for itself whether legalization makes sense and how the industry should be governed.”

And remember: Marijuana is a drug. Whether used recreationally or legally, keep out of reach of children.

The Most Popular Drugs in the World

The Most Popular Drugs in the World

At the end of my Project Claudia post, I promised I'd address this one.

What do you think are the most popular drugs in the world?

By some definitions, it is marijuana but there are two others that are legal and so commonly used that people don't think of them as drugs at all.

Before I tell you what they are, I want to define two terms. Emphasis mine:

1. Drug:

“a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.” (Source: Google “drug definition”)
“any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals.” (Source: dictionary.com)
something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness” (Source: Merriam-Webster)

2. Addiction:
“compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal” (Source: Merriam-Webster)
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” (Source: dictionary.com)

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • to feel good
  • to feel better
  • to do better – improve performance
  • curiosity and peer pressure

According to The American Psychiatric Association (APA), symptoms of addiction – or “substance use disorder” are grouped into four categories:

– Impaired control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use
– Social problems: significant problems at home, school, or work, including relationship problems; you stop doing activities you usually enjoy in order to use the substance (or perform the activity, as would be the case with addictions to gambling or internet or porn – to name a few).
– Risky use: you place yourself in settings or situations that could be or are dangerous just so you can continue to use.
– Drug effects: tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. (See M-W definition above.)

Can you think of any everyday, common substances that fit these definitions and characteristics of drugs and addiction?

The two I'm thinking of are both white powders: One bitter, one sweet.

Remember, I'm talking legal drugs here, so no, it's not cocaine.

Common additive substance #1

This is one of them:
caffeinemolecule2

Its molecules are made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen atoms.

You likely have the means of making it at home. You likely consume it daily, or often.

It's available in grocery stores and specialty shops.

Two writers in The Atlantic referred to it as, “The World’s Most Popular Drug”.

(more…)

My Thoughts on Toronto’s Pot Dispensaries & Project Claudia

My Thoughts on Toronto’s Pot Dispensaries & Project Claudia

Oh boy. This is a big topic. I'd been trying to write this post for three days before I started this post on May 29, took a few days off, and then spent multiple days on it on and off. I've been reading, watching, taking notes. This might not be the most eloquent post, but it contains facts and opinions that I want to communicate.

Recently, in an event called “Project Claudia“, Toronto police arrested 90 people and laid 186 trafficking charges after raiding 43 marijuana dispensaries. The City laid a further 79 charges on property owners for zoning and licensing bylaw infractions. The dispensaries received a letter from Toronto Police the previous week saying they were unlawful and were asked to shut down. Landlords were asked to evict their dispensary tenants.

Among the objects seized during the 43 raids, there was 270 kilograms of dry cannabis, 30 kg of resin, 25 kg of hash, 27 kg of pills, 73 kg of chocolate, 142 kg of cookies, 129 kg of candies, 101 kg of bars, 135 e-cigarettes, 457 drinks, 127 kg of oils and spreads, and 121 kg of other by-products were seized.

Police say 90 people arrested in connection with Toronto pot dispensary raids CP24.com

Screenshot.

I'm pro-legalization and pro-marijuana, but…

I'm pro-medical cannabis. It's an area that I'm fascinated by, and I'm an advocate for. I've been watching Toronto's dispensary community and I've been paying attention to the issues around legalization. I like that dispensaries exist. They're needed. I think that people SHOULD have a place to go for this type of medicine.  I also don't think there's anything wrong with adults using cannabis recreationally. I'm even planning a 4-6 week email-based course that teaches the basics of marijuana, mostly in the context of health. (Want in? Subscribe to my newsletter over on the right and up.)

I think that many of the existing dispensaries should be legal. People need access and it needs to be more open than it currently is.

I also don't think that the police are absolutely wrong. I watched the press conference and empathized with Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders.

(more…)

Why I didn’t post about 420 on 4/20

Why I didn’t post about 420 on 4/20

Photo credit: Cannabis Culture

Photo credit: Cannabis Culture

It's now been over two weeks since April 20, aka “4/20”. I have a particular interest in cannabis in the area of healthcare and I considered a blog post about it on April 20.  I wrote up a bunch of notes about myths and misconceptions, and counterculture vs. mainstream. I mentioned “decades of damage to undo” and “changing the conversation” and my distaste for it being an excuse for stoner kids to flip off authority. There are some amazing examples of civil disobedience in history, but there's “civil disobedience” and then there's that. (As in, “being that guy”.)

(more…)