In an utterly historic move, Canada is legalizing cannabis on October 17th of this year (2018).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons. Trudeau said the government delayed the timetable for lifting the almost century-old prohibition on cannabis at the request of larger provinces, including Quebec, which asked for more time to make the transition to a legal regime for regulating the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis. At an afternoon press conference, Trudeau expressed hope that the nation’s cannabis retail systems will be ready to do business on October 17th.
The Canadian Senate approved Bill C-45, the bill establishing the new legal regime, after seven months of intensive study and debate.
Canadian Senators also dropped their insistence on amendments to the bill, most notably one that would have authorized provincials and territorial governments to prohibit the home cultivation of marijuana plants if they choose. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said “C-45 marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis,” she said. “It leaves behind a failed model of prohibition, a model that has made organized crime rich and left our young people vulnerable. In its place we will have a new system that will give adults the opportunity to purchase and consume cannabis legally from authorized suppliers. Most importantly, our shift in policy will protect youth from the health and safety risks of cannabis and keep those same criminals from profiting from its production, distribution and sale.”
It was clear, however, that there are still more questions than answers about what Canada’s nascent legal-pot landscape will look like—how police will test motorists, what to do about those with prior marijuana convictions, and just how the rules governing home cultivation will work. Quebec, Manitoba, and Nunavut have already decided to ban home-grown weed, despite the fact that the new federal law stipulates that individuals may grow up to four plants per dwelling.
In the Commons, New Democrat MP Don Davies attempted to pass a motion calling on the government to immediately pardon Canadians convicted of simple cannabis possession—something that will no longer be a crime as of Oct. 17. The motion did not muster the necessary unanimous consent.
Trudeau has strongly hinted that pardons are likely, but he has resolutely refused to go down that path before the law is changed. “We recognize that anyone who is currently purchasing marijuana is participating in illegal activity that is funding criminal organizations and street gangs,” he said in January. “And therefore we do not want to encourage in any way people to engage in that behavior until the law is changed.”
Our neighbor to the North just committed to the path of legal cannabis, think of it for just a moment… After October 17th, regular citizens who simply make a different, less toxic and harmful choice than alcohol are no longer going to be considered dangerous criminals. This is an amazing leap forward for all of us.