After a series of back-and-forth debates between Canada’s House and Senate, with a few pointed remarks from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along the way, the Canadian government has formally approved its cannabis legalization bill. Adult-use sales are expected to begin in the next two to three months.
In recent news reports, Canadian officials have pointed to Sept. 1 as a likely start date for the regulated adult-use market; it will be up to the federal government to identify a formal date. Provinces have been preparing their own regulations on production and retail for months. [UPDATE: Canada's Minister of Health has announced that sales will begin Oct. 17.]
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana—and for criminals to reap the profit,” Trudeau tweeted after the vote. “Today, we change that.” Trudeau promised on the campaign trail in 2015 that his administration would oversee the formal legalization of cannabis in Canada.
"I'm feeling just great," Sen. Tony Dean told CBC News. "We've just witnessed a historic vote for Canada. The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government."
“In Canada, one of the main reasons for doing this is getting the money generated from cannabis out of the black market and out of organized crime, and I think by doing this, it’s really going to open up a lot of opportunities to have businesses where people care about individuals [and are] able to provide that medication or that recreational substance,” added Joel Shacker, director of Vancouver-based cannabis lifestyle brand Weekend Unlimited.
Chief among the last-minute debates was a provision that would have allowed provinces to ban at-home growing. That amendment did not make it into the final bill. (Residents will be allowed to grow up to four plants at home.) Another Senate amendment that was removed from the bill would have banned branded merchandise.
Medical cannabis has been legally available in Canada since 2001.
Canada follows Uruguay as the second country to legalize adult-use cannabis. A major difference between the two country’s laws will be Canada’s provision to sell marijuana to foreign citizens who are traveling abroad.
In many ways, Canadian regulators will have an opportunity to play role models to the rest of the world. As cannabis legalization becomes more widely supported in an increasing number of countries, Canadian regulations on advertising or packaging, for example, can set the tone for future markets.
Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock