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Legalization Series Summary

After almost one hundred years of Cannabis prohibition, Canada is now entering a regulated and legal market.  As the first G7 county to legalize Cannabis, Canada is paving the way for global change.  It shows the government of Canada believes adults are mature enough and have the right to make their own choices.

The first point of Alberta’s framework for legalization is to keep Cannabis out of the hands of children and youth. This is being addressed with restrictions on:

  • minimum age requirements;
  • advertising regulations;
  • child-proof, plain packaging.

However, there are still safety concerns to consider.  Children can unintentionally ingest Cannabis infused edibles, as these products are often mistaken for candy and chocolate.  Some of the new proposed regulations for edibles could reduce this risk for families.  These include:

  • THC limits: 10mg per serving;
  • child-proof, plain packaging;
  • possible restrictions on both colours and shapes.

The second point of Alberta’s framework is to protect safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces.  Some ways this is being addressed:

  • consumption has been restricted in most public places;
  • punishments for drug-driving and for the consumption of Cannabis in vehicles;
  • allowing employers to implement independent drug testing to address recreational use.

There is still ongoing discussion about the legitimacy of drug testing for Cannabis and if it is even possible to measure intoxication.  Some of the testing being used currently include:

  • Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST);
  • Drug Recognition Expert (DRE);
  • Blood test;
  • Urine test;
  • Saliva method.

This issue will require risk-mitigating and thoughtful legislation to set a reliable standard.

Another complex set of issues facing the legalization of Cannabis in Canada has to do with the packaging regulations, overall supply and pricing concerns.

Health Canada regulations state Cannabis is to be sold in plain packaging with strict branding and advertising limits to deter children from consuming Cannabis.  However, retailers and Licensed Producers say branding is necessary to convince consumers to switch to the legal market and to differentiate each product and brand.  Advocates say these regulations are a disservice to consumers and will make it harder for individuals to understand the products being purchased.

The hottest topic right now is the supply shortage, which is affecting most of the country and particularly retailers here in Alberta.  For those in the medical program, it is common knowledge that the current Licensed Producers sell out of product regularly.  It is also common knowledge that Health Canada is slow to approve Licensed Producers.  It is projected the market would require as many as 200 Licensed Producers at the time legalization occurs and currently, there are just over 150 even now.

One intention of legalization is to eliminate or decrease the illegal market.  However, the black market will continue due to these factors:

  • supply shortages;
  • the current restrictions on packaging;
  • illegal products typically cost less than the legal product.

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 are rarely stand-alone charges.

However, many Canadians currently have a criminal record and are serving time for past Cannabis related offenses.  Questions about possible pardons and even examples of unintentional consequences are arising from the current legalization in Canada.

The most relevant consequence of legalization is that individuals from organized crime have begun to infiltrate the legitimate market.  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.  These rules include:

  • minimum age for consumption
  • where to find legal sources
  • where you can consume it
  • how much product you can possess at one time
  • intoxication limits for driving

The subject of legalization and what demands it will put on infrastructure is a topic that has been largely ignored.  Some of the sectors being affected include:

  • package delivery services, Canada Post and UPS etc;
  • utility services: energy and water;
  • real-estate market: commercial and residential;
  • healthcare services: increased emergency incidence such as burns and overdoses etc;
  • waste and recycling services.

These new demands on infrastructure are beneficial for job creation but raise questions about the unintentional consequences.  These are:

  • increased emissions, environmental impacts;
  • demand on agriculture space and utility services;
  • decreased property values due to potential grow operations;
  • increased waste and recycling demands from left-over packaging

Being able to quantify the economic and environmental impacts will be critical to evolving the industry and separating the strong competitors from the rest.

The most obvious benefit of legalization is that Canadian citizens will have reasonable access to legal, regulated Cannabis products.  Legalization will also make it possible for scientific research in Canada, which will help legitimize the use of Cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition.  It is also the key to lessen negative stereotypes and to eliminate the stigma associated with consumption.

Another obvious benefit of legalization is (or was) job creation, in many sectors of industry.  However, many Cannabis companies have their hiring programs on hold currently because of the issues caused by the supply shortage, which is causing delaying opening store fronts and other sectors of business.

Advertising regulations in Canada are strict but promoting content on social media is even more difficult.  Currently, most social platforms are US based and Cannabis is still illegal there, federally speaking.  This is slowly beginning to change, as Cannabis becomes more normalized.

Despite all the debate The Cannabis Act is technically legalization and while it may not be perfect it is the framework of our future industry.  Regardless, the future looks green for those in the Cannabis community and industry here in Canada.

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