Adult-use cannabis legalization is a mere two months away.
October 17 is close on the horizon, and there are still major issues that have yet to be properly addressed, some of which will make cannabis use more restrictive than it is during these final days of prohibition.
- What you need to know about Canada's cannabis excise tax
- How cannabis legalization will affect travel within Canada
- This is what cannabis legalization will look like in each province
1. No amnesty
On a federal level, one of the greatest concerns is the lack of an amnesty program, especially considering that cannabis possession charges disproportionately affect racialized and vulnerable communities.
Despite being weeks away from legislation, the Feds have yet to commit to any amnesty program or even to guarantee that there will be one in place in the future, leaving thousands of Canadians with criminal records for something that will soon be totally legal.
2. Rights of municipalities
In most provinces, municipalities have been granted the right to ban cannabis retailers from selling within their jurisdictions, effectively preventing those with limited mobility, no internet, or no credit card (i.e. lower-income Canadians) from purchasing cannabis.
Online-only sales create similar socioeconomic barriers, especially problematic for those who use medical cannabis.
3. Multi-unit dwellings
Condo boards and landlords are going out of their way to prevent cannabis use in multi-unit dwellings across Canada.
For those provinces that prevent consuming cannabis in public (like New Brunswick), this creates a class issue as cannabis will be essentially prohibited to those who don’t own a free-standing house of their own.
4. The dissolution of the ACMPR
When cannabis becomes legal this October, the government will cease to differentiate between recreational and medical cannabis, meaning that sick Canadians will pay taxes on their medication (although all other prescriptions are not taxed in Canada).
There are also concerns that ‘budtenders’ at local dispensaries are not qualified (or legally permitted) to offer advice and supervision previously provided by a physician or nurse practitioner. While budtenders are permitted to discuss the specifics of a strain, they can not provide medical suggestions or diagnoses, leaving some medical patients feeling unsupported and unsure of how to use their medication.
5. Festival smoking areas
Calgary announced a pilot project this spring, in which festivals can apply for designated cannabis smoking areas, much like those for tobacco already in place at most events.
Alberta Health Services opposed the move, but council will be looking at the results sometime in late 2019 to review the bylaw and amendments that cleared the way for the designated consumption areas. Festivals in cities like Ottawa have adopted similar policies, with summer-favourite Bluesfest adding a designated consumption space for medical cannabis users this summer.
6. Smoking/vape lounges
Toronto has been home to several established smoke/vape lounges for years, including the Hotbox, Planet Paradise and Vapor Central – and although they’ve never been exactly legal, officials generally turned a blind eye. After some discussion of licensing cannabis lounges earlier this year, the province decided to outlaw the businesses.
However, the province has stalled on the outright banning of consumption lounges for medical cannabis but with the abolition of the ACMPR and no differentiation between medical and recreational cannabis as of October 17, it remains to be seen how that might be verified or enforced.
7. Public smoking
There is a massive discrepancy in public smoking legislation from province to province in Canada (to say nothing of municipalities).
In Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Nunavut, smoking cannabis is permitted anywhere smoking tobacco is permitted. Same in Alberta, with a few exceptions (although the City of Calgary wants to ban public smoking), and BC, with a few more exceptions, including a ban on public intoxication which can land first-time offenders in jail for three months.
Manitoba law will forbid public smoking, with an escalating system of fines from $100 to $1000, depending on if it’s a first, second, or third offence. Public smoking is banned in Saskatchewan too, where getting caught can net Canadians a fine of $200.
It’s also forbidden in Ontario, except that fine will cost you $1000 for the first offence and $5000 for each subsequent offence. Per the Ontario Act, passing a joint to someone who appears drunk/intoxicated can potentially land you up to a year in jail.
Pass it back and forth a few times with an already-stoned friend and you could be looking at up to 14 years.