Speaking at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on global drug use Wednesday, Canada’s health minister, Jane Philpott, said the Trudeau government’s promised legislation to legalize marijuana will be tabled next spring.
Philpott said an approach to drug policy must be comprehensive, collaborative and based on a “strong scientific foundation.”
“We will be introducing legislation in the spring of 2017 that ensures we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals,” she said.
“While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety.” [excerpt from the article]
(Note: ‘Tabled’ doesn’t mean ‘introduced.’ A bill that is ‘tabled’ is sent to committee after being introduced to the House.)
The fact that legislation “will be coming” doesn’t mean that everyone can light up before the end of Trudeau’s first mandate.
Legalisation is complicated and it involves provincial governments as well as the federal government. Government jurisdictional disputes can take years to resolve. Advocates for legalisation seem to think that the only thing involved is the deletion of sections of the Criminal Code and the Drug Act. Think again.
Today, just about anybody can find cannabis at a price controlled by a ‘free’ or ‘quasi-free’ market. Legalisation will change that; legal cannabis will be a controlled substance grown under prescribed conditions by licensed growers. Like petroleum, prices will have to be managed by controlling supply or nobody will make money. This makes legalisation impossible without management. A specific level of THC will have to be ensured. The purity of the crop will have to be ensured, which means rigorous government inspections will be necessary. Cannabis added to food will have to be regulated and, like every other aspect of the business of marijuana, the growing of it, the marketting and sale of it, the distribution of it will have to be controlled.
If governments are going to tax it, cannabis must have monetary value. There is little incentive to legalise cannabis, if government cannot make money from it so, ironically, legal cannabis may be more expensive than illegal cannabis.
Legal marijuana will require more enforcement, not less. Once it happens, users will yearn for the days when it was illegal. Unlicensed growers will have to be found and suppressed to protect the quality of the product and the market price. The market, once ‘free,’ will become a ‘managed’ affair that will benefit large, licensed growers and the government. Numbers of illegal growers will increase as independent farmers try to provide lower priced product to undercut a controlled market price.
Most people compare legal cannabis to legal alcohol but that may prove to be over-simplification. If you think of it more like petroleum and gasoline, or the price of electricity, you may have some idea of where we are going. If you imagine that legal marijuana will keep drugs away from minors, think about how difficult it is for kids to buy cigarettes.
Of course, there is ‘the slippery slope’ argument, which has considerable merit, that legal cannabis will encourage the legalisation of other drugs that, today, we control or prohibit in the interest of public safety because of the dangers of addiction. The notion that ‘government control ensures purity in the interest of public safety’ is the logic on which the legalisation of cannabis rests and it is that logic that will confound our thinking with respect to other far more dangerous illegal drugs. Marijuana is the ‘gateway drug’ in more ways than one.
Professional. Retired. Canadian.