I have waited my whole life for this day: Oct. 17, 2018, Canada becomes the first Western country to allow full marijuana legalization, medical and recreational. It can be sold for sale to anyone above 19 (18 in two provinces), including foreigners. Uruguay legalized cannabis in December 2013 but to avoid pot tourism, limits sales to citizens and legal residents.
It will be legal in all corners of this vast country, unlike the U.S. dichotomy—legal in some states and not others but illegal federally. Canada’s federal criminal code applies everywhere in the country.
Soon independent cannabis retail outlets will dot the streets of Toronto, where I live, just as they did in a brief dispensary honeymoon in 2016-2017. At first, it will only be available legally on an official Ontario website. The previous Liberal government, unceremoniously tossed out of office this year, had planned what was widely called a ‘Mom’ solution. It would be sold in government stores, and in an online website. There was just one store planned initially for all of Toronto, the largest Canadian city with nearly three million residents. A line from here to Detroit no doubt. Thankfully, jettisoning that ill-conceived idea was almost the first move the new government made in its first days (and I didn’t even vote for it). Other provinces like Alberta, thankfully, led the way to private retail.
In fact, the mania against legalizing it has produced one of the biggest tax free black markets imaginable. Billions and billions in sales have occurred without governments getting one red cent in tax. If only they’d thought of that ages ago, not to mention all of the ridiculous prison sentences for anyone from comedian Tim Allen to Mark “The Prince of Pot” Emery and everywhere in between. For years, people have made an excellent living growing, packaging a selling an illegal product. Now it’s about to be sold over the counter at ordinary retail stores. Even Shoppers Drug Mart, a traditional and conservative nationwide drug chain, will sell the medical product. Just as prohibition is now viewed as a misguided crime-producing diversion, illegal cannabis will be seen as having the same negative characteristics. Canada will be a world leader in pot sales.
The question I wonder, however, is will legalization change society in a meaningful way? How ‘far out’ will be its effects. Here are four ways:
- First of all, so many people have ignored the outdated laws for years and have enjoyed cannabis openly. Nothing will change for them. The medical population has had access to it for a long time. Many of those consumers have used it to get high, inventing a medical condition to obtain it legally. They may switch to legal retailers. But their consumption will be the same.
- Those who hesitated in sampling cannabis might now feel more free to try. And what they will discover is a harmless product that can actually help them feel better, assuage certain medical conditions, greatly enhance sex, music and food, produce neither health consequences nor addictions. People can become seriously dependent on it (this happened in my life with my former partner).
- The professional appearing person next to you on a bus or in the office now might be high—legally. It’s possible to get an odourless, colourless puff from a rechargeable cartridge, which can be placed in a purse or jacket pocket and consumed out in the open or in private without leaving a trace. More people will go around mellow and friendly and content. The biggest potheads aren’t the ones you’d guess, says the New York Post.
- Another consequence is that opiod use will go down; it’s said crime will too—and there will be a lot of happier people. The change will be slow but if anything, the promise of the Sixties is about to be on us.
Like anything of course, in moderation. Legalization won’t make much of a difference to me personally but it will to many others and I believe that’s a fundamental societal improvement. Welcome to the legal pot era.