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Legalization Series: Legal Aspects

In Canada, the use of Cannabis for recreational purposes will be legal for adults later this fall.  There are many legal aspects facing local communities affecting the success of this social change.  Questions about possible pardons for past Cannabis offences and even examples of unintentional consequences are arising from the upcoming legalization in Canada.

Here in Calgary, the past attitude of the local authorities was somewhat relaxed when it came to Cannabis offences compared to other conservative communities.  Officers admit they have been working under an unofficial decriminalization capacity for many years and in most cases, only laying drug charges when necessary and were rarely stand-alone charges.  The impression is that Cannabis offences were a low priority previously.

Despite local authorities’ approach, arrests for Cannabis have occurred.  There are many Canadians who now have a criminal record and are serving time.  Once legalization occurs later this year there potentially may be reclassifications or pardons for previous Cannabis offences.  This will lessen the burden on the court system and will allow those individuals to then participate in the industry.

California’s new legislation included both reclassified or expunged for those with Cannabis offences.  It also allows those currently serving sentences the opportunity for re-sentencing.  Oregon also passed a resolution in 2015 allowing Cannabis offences to be expunged. The opposite is true for those in Washington and Colorado, where the legalisation has become more severe in some cases.

The Stanford Open Policing Project 2018 reports that after Cannabis consumption was legalized, Colorado and Washington did see a dramatic drop in overall ‘search’ rates.  It is time for Canada to adopt an atmosphere of non-criminality, to stop arrests and expunge existing criminal records for Cannabis possession.  It is important the laws reflect the values of its citizens.

One intention of legalization is to displace the black market with a regulated, legal market.  However, authorities in Calgary admit there have already been representatives of ‘the cartel’ coming to Canada to infiltrate the legitimate market, ahead of legalization.  This is an unavoidable consequence which is offset by a possible reduction in the low-level street dealers.  It will be up to the municipalities to screen these individuals as much as possible to avoid too much saturation.

It will be every individual’s responsibility to be aware of local and federal laws surrounding the use of recreational Cannabis.  The minimum age for consumption, where to find legal sources, where you can consume it, how much product you can possess at one time and intoxication limits for driving are some things to consider.  Legalization will have many advantages and disadvantages.  The process will take time before the long-term legislation is more realistic.

References:  CBC, Lift NEWS, VICE News, and The Stanford Open Policing Project.

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