Home CommentaryOpinions The pot-ential of legalization in Canada

The pot-ential of legalization in Canada

by Matthew Guida January 16, 2018
The pot-ential of legalization in Canada

Industry regulations, police resources among factors to consider before July 2018 legislation

The legalization of marijuana in Canada is a major step in the country’s history. This is an issue that impacts society on a fundamental level. In my opinion, how each province handles and adapts to the changes resulting from this legislation will be an important part of the transition.

In July 2018, the Quebec government will officially recognize Bill 172. This bill introduces the legalization of marijuana, along with several key points. Firstly, the legal age to purchase and consume marijuana will be 18 in Quebec, according to CBC News. Secondly, the bill prohibits the growing of marijuana for personal use or growing it for commercial use if it is conducted outside the laws established by the provincial government.

Additionally, under the bill, marijuana can be smoked in areas permitting tobacco smoking, but it will be strictly forbidden to smoke on the property of an educational institution, according to the same source. And, of course, driving under the influence will still be against the law. Anyone caught driving while under the influence, or suspected of being under the influence, could have their license suspended for 90 days or even face jail time, according to CBC News.

Concerned citizens and several Quebec officials are still hesitant about the idea of legalizing marijuana. Some believe that by legalizing it, younger citizens could be influenced to pick up the habit, according to the Montreal Gazette. I believe these concerns are justified.

Even though marijuana will be legalized, the long-time criminal element associated with it remains, and law enforcement officials are striving to postpone its legalization date. They are insistent that the bill must allow for stricter regulations when it comes to managing this new industry. This includes making sure companies and the health ministry have stricter security clearances for employees to avoid introducing organized crime into the legalized marijuana industry, according to the National Post. Many law enforcement officials also believe police require additional training and resources—besides the saliva test, which has yet to be federally regulated—in order to identify and handle impaired drivers, according to CBC News.

While valid points, I believe it’s also important to see the good that this legalization can bring. One major example is that, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, medical marijuana could help combat the opioid crisis. Since 2015, the opioid crisis has become a dangerous problem for Canadians. In 2016, there were over 2,800 reported fatalities in connection to opioid overdoses in Canada, according to The Globe and Mail.

Portugal is one example of successful marijuana legalization. Since 2001, the country has legalized all drugs up to a certain amount, including marijuana, and each legal limit varies per drug. According to Sensi Seeds, a cannabis seed marketing company, carrying up to 2.5 grams of marijuana is legal in Portugal. However, trafficking and cultivating marijuana is still illegal and could result in jail time, according to the same source. Portugal has seen several advantages, including a decline in drug overdoses. Within the European Union, Portugal has the second lowest rate of fatal overdoses, according to the Washington Post.

Make no mistake—I am not saying we should be legalizing all drugs. I am saying that legalizing marijuana may have the potential to do some good within certain communities. By following and adapting our policies to the examples set by the legislations in other countries, Quebec can create policies that provide strict safety and security regulations for marijuana. There is also a potential benefit to people’s health, especially when considering the opioid crisis.

However, such a sensitive issue requires patience. While I wouldn’t say no to the idea, I am saying that we need more time to finalize all the details and appeal to all the groups involved. In my opinion, if we rush this process, the consequences could result in severe social backlash.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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