Canada is planning to legalize recreational marijuana, which would make it only the second nation to do so, after Uruguay. Beyond that, it gets complicated. The plans unveiled on April 13 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government were short on details about what the market might look like, and included onerous new penalties. Rather than celebrating the prospect of legalization in the not-so-distant future, Canada’s pot activists are complaining about the law-and-order campaign against pot use.
1. What will be allowed?
The proposed legislation, targeted to take effect by July 2018, would let anyone over 18 buy fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oils, seeds and plants. Edible products like brownies will be legalized later. Adults can carry and share up to 30 grams in a public place at any time, and grow up to four plants in any residence. Minors won’t be prosecuted if found with under five grams.
2. What’s so complicated about that?
Canada’s legalization push is being accompanied, somewhat paradoxically, by a crackdown on pot use and users. Selling products that mix cannabis with nicotine, caffeine or alcohol won’t be allowed (no pot-infused coffee pods like the ones that have debuted in some U.S. stores). Police will be allowed to do roadside alcohol tests without any evidence of impairment — likely a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, lawyers warn — and collect “oral fluid samples” to test for marijuana. Providing marijuana to someone under 18 could lead to a jail sentence of up to 14 years.
3. Isn’t that a bit harsh?
It is when you consider this: Under Canadian law, the same maximum 14-year sentence applies to crimes such as sexually assaulting a child, severely assaulting a police officer, creating child pornography, human trafficking and certain terrorism offenses.
4. How will Canada’s legal marijuana be sold?
That’ll be left up to provinces to decide, which adds to the uncertainty. Medical marijuana is already sent by mail in Canada and, if provinces don’t set up retail sales, recreational pot will be sent by mail, too. (Provinces will also be allowed to enforce a higher minimum age for marijuana use.) The federal government hasn’t said how it will tax pot or if it will fix prices, as Uruguay, has done. Companies will be allowed to do some advertising and promotion, with restrictions, but all endorsements are barred — sorry, Snoop Dogg.
5. Which companies will jump into the market?
Canada has 43 licensed medical marijuana producers, including prominent ones like Canopy Growth Corp., Aurora Cannabis Inc. and OrganiGram Holdings Inc. They surged in value in anticipation of the new market. Though shares fell in the days after the long-awaited announcement — some executives had been cashing out — these medical producers figure to have a head start.
6. What’s motivating Trudeau?
Trudeau, 45, says he’s smoked pot, including since…