OTTAWA — Canada is expected to officially legalize recreational marijuana after the Senate votes June 7, according to The Guardian. Legislation was already passed by the House, and after the Senate approves the law, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expects his administration will be ready for cannabis sales within a few months.
Trudeau incorporated Canadian marijuana legalization into his election campaign and implemented his plan to legalize the drug when he was elected in 2015. Officials expect the country’s legal marijuana industry to earn between $5 billion and $7 billion Canadian dollars per year.
Once Canada legalizes marijuana federally, it will become the first G7 and G20 country (largest advanced country) to do so. It could serve as an international model for marijuana legalization. Experts say they have learned from the mistakes made with U.S. states that have legalized the drug and hope to avoid similar missteps.
Former Chief of Police in Toronto and current Member of Parliament Bill Blair said legalization in Canada will protect citizens from black market products by providing safety measures and drug regulation.
Blair said prohibiting drugs has failed for decades, noting that Canadians use marijuana at a high rate despite legalities and regulation necessities.
"The proposed legislation, which is introduced today, seeks to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis," Blair said. The costs will help eradicate the black market.
Cannabis activists hope the U.S. will follow Canada's lead and legalize the drug.
Founder and CEO of BDS Analytics Roy Bingham said Canada is setting the new normal, adding that the United States legal marijuana industry is "a very abnormal industry." Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, yet it is still illegal under federal law. Washington D.C. and 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, but the drug is still classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin. Cannabis is in a more potent drug-class than fentanyl, cocaine, and oxycodone.
Nearly 5 Million Canadians Consumed Marijuana in 2017
A survey conducted last March found at least two-thirds of pot-smoking Canadians will switch from the black market to purchasing legal marijuana once the law is implemented. Those surveyed also said that once legal, they will increase the amount of cannabis they will buy. Nearly 5 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 consumed marijuana in Canada last year, according to Reuters.
After Canada legalizes marijuana, adults 18 years of age and older will be allowed to purchase cannabis from a governmentally-regulated dispensary. Regulations also include national lab-testing, safety, and potency standards, as well as strict marketing and packaging restrictions imposed to ensure children aren't targeted by manufacturers.
Canadian police will determine enforcement measures in regard to drugged driving once legalization is implemented. Measuring an impaired driver's blood alcohol content is easily detected with breathalyzers, but there is not currently a way to accurately measure marijuana in the system because it can remain in the blood for more than a month. Traveling across the Canadian/U.S. border also raises concerns for officials.
The Saskatchewan province has voiced serious concerns regarding the government's strategy to combat driving under the influence of marijuana, but the new law will allow provinces to set their own regulations, including raising the age requirements for marijuana in local communities.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Canada in 2001 and earned about $1.7 billion last year. Canadians spent approximately $5.7 billion on illegal marijuana last year.