Here’s what Canada’s legal weed regime could be like

Here's what Canada's legal weed regime could be like
Photo by Cannabis Culture/Flickr

Over the summer, the federal government created a task force to help Justin Trudeau and friends figure out exactly how to go about fulfilling his campaign promise to legalize marijuana. That task force’s report was released to the public today, and it paints a vivid picture of what post-prohibition Canada could look like. The report is only a suggestion, though, and we won’t know what kinds of rules the government actually intends to implement until it finally tables its legislation, likely in spring 2017.

In the meantime, here are a few ways buying and smoking marijuana would be different if all of the task force’s recommendations were put into effect.

High schoolers would still have to smoke on the sly

The task force recommends that the federal government make 18 the legal minimum pot-smoking age in Canada—but the provinces would be able to institute their own, higher minimum ages. In Ontario, there’s a possibility that Queen’s Park would try to set the cutoff at 19, to match the drinking age.

There wouldn’t be any two-for-one deals on weed and wine at the LCBO

Although Kathleen Wynne has openly mused about the possibility of selling weed at the LCBO, the task force doesn’t think that’s such a great idea. The report cites a few reasons for avoiding selling alcohol and marijuana in the same stores. The biggies: putting weed next to alcohol could tempt adults who don’t already smoke into trying it out (which would apparently be a bad thing), and could also give the impression that the government wants people to smoke and drink at the same time.

Your neighbourhood dispensary would be at the mercy of Queen’s Park

Everyone knows—or should know—that all the pot dispensaries taking over empty storefronts around Toronto are illegal. They survive only because of the indifference of local law enforcement, which cracks down on them occasionally (but rarely hard enough to make the charges stick). The task force wants to leave it up to the provinces to decide what to do about retail weed sales. Queen’s Park would theoretically have a free hand to figure out an approach, which might involve passing some or all of the responsibility to municipal governments. The task force’s report doesn’t make specific recommendations about what kind of stores should be allowed to sell weed, or whether they should be privately or publicly owned. It does recommend that pot stores be located away from schools, and that their proximity to one another be regulated, which would definitely cause problems for weed merchants in dispensary-heavy neighbourhoods like Kensington Market. Mail-order marijuana would still be available.

Edibles would come in boring packaging

Pot treats are bound to be a source of controversy in the coming legalization debate, because they’re seen as dangerous: they’re potentially attractive to children, and if they’re not prepared and consumed carefully they can be way too potent, even for adult users. The task force recommends making edibles legal, as long as they’re not packaged in a way that mimics a regular food item or is “appealing to children.” This would mean selling edibles in opaque, child-resistant packaging. And it would probably curtail sales of some of the more candy-like products currently on the market.

You’d be able to grow your own

The task force recommends allowing anyone to have up to four pot plants in their house, as long as the plants are under 100 centimetres tall and the weed is more or less just for personal use. (Some sharing with friends would be allowed.)

You wouldn’t be able to vape on the subway

In the world envisioned by the task force, all the same rules that restrict where people can smoke tobacco would also apply to weed. So, no smoking up in restaurants, movie theatres or maternity wards.

You’d have to pay a bit more for more potent weed

The task force envisions a taxation regime that would enforce larger levies on more potent strains of weed, which would, they hope, discourage people from overindulging.

It would still be possible to get in trouble with the law

As part of this new world of weed on demand, the task force wants police to make life difficult for anyone who breaks the few restrictions that remain. The report calls for the development of new techniques for catching and penalizing people who drive while high.


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