Canada is now the second country to legalise cannabis for recreational use.
While medical marijuana has been available in Canada since 2001, today marks a huge milestone as hundreds of people on the eastern island of Newfoundland have been queueing in lines outside cannabis shops. It should come as no surprise to many Canadians as this has been a hot topic for quite some time and with the perspective on cannabis shifting world-wide as a whole, many people will be watching this national experiment in drug liberalisation.
Canada follows in the footsteps of Uruguay, which became the first country in the world to legalise the sale of cannabis for recreational use in 2013. The legalisation of cannabis in Canada fulfils a campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Leader of the governing Liberal Party) in 2015. The PM has campaigned and argued that Canada’s nearly century-old laws criminalising the use of cannabis have proved to be ineffective, especially since Canadians are still among the world’s heaviest users of cannabis. He stated that this new legalisation is designed to keep drugs out of the hands of minors and profits out of the hands of criminals. The aim of the legalisation is to better reflect society’s changing opinion about cannabis and bring black market operators into a regulated system.
It’s predicted that at least 111 legal cannabis shops opened across the country on just the first day alone, however, no stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and does not expect any stores to open until next spring. For those with no access to cannabis shops, they will be able to order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.
It remains unknown if this new change in Canada will be beneficial as police and officials have expressed uncertainty over how they will tackle important issues such as drug impaired driving. However, while it’s more than likely going to be a rocky start attempting to regulate a new market of this size, it may pay off in the long run as the federal government also predicts it will raise $400m a year in tax revenues on the sale of cannabis.
What does this mean for the future?
The global trends on cannabis are shifting away from it being seen as a ‘dangerous drug’, but they’re now looking at how it could benefit people from a medical perspective and this shift in thinking is becoming evidently clear. While it may take a very long time for it to be legalised in most countries for recreational use, medical marijuana is gaining ground in many European countries, with Portugal and the Netherlands having decriminalised the drug.
While it’s still a very debated topic in many countries, legalising marijuana in the UK for recreational use still seems like a far fetched notion, but with Canada stepping out and taking a risk with the legalisation, it will be interesting to see how other countries react, especially if it proves successful.