The nation with the red and white leaf flag will soon be embracing the pot leaf. Officially.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on June 20 that the nation will decriminalize recreational marijuana use on October 17. (If you wanted to buy stock in rolling papers or glass, now’s the time.)
It’s been just over a year since Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and a handful of others introduced a bill that would allow recreational pot use to be legalized, but on June 19 the bill was signed into law after it was approved by the Canadian Senate. Smokers across the country puffed victory rings into the air, undoubtedly, while Americans not living in Colorado, Washington State and Washington, D.C. looked to their northern neighbors, green with envy.
This makes Canada the first G7 country to embrace the concept of “smoke’ em if you’ve got ‘em” as a national policy.
So what does this all mean?
Adults will be allowed to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis; anyone found with more than that in their possession while in a public place can face up to five years in jail. Driving while high runs the risk of a $1,000 fine – minimum— for a first offense and at least 30 days in jail for a second offense.
Will people who already smoke or consume pot really be willing to switch to legal green?
A survey conducted by Asking Canadians suggests retailers are going to be rolling in cash starting in October. Two-thirds of those who responded indicated they’d switch to legal retailers once pot use became legal, which could be worth an estimated $4.34 billion in sales over the next year. Keep in mind, this poll was taken back in March, when the legality of smoking pot for fun was not yet a 100% done deal.
“What is certain is that legalization will open the doors to a dynamic and sophisticated industry that will create new jobs, new opportunities for businesses and new revenue for government,” said Deloitte, an accounting firm that commissioned the survey. “Executed well, legalization will also help shift a considerable proportion of cannabis consumption to legal channels in the years to come.”
Sale practices will vary by province
Some provinces were already well into the process of setting up shops. In April, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation identified the site of its first retail location – and issued a call for suppliers.
Saskatchewan is the only province in which the liquor agency will NOT be handling pot as well. (Who says pot and drinking don’t mix?)
Manitoba looks to be establishing a series of province-wide chain retailers while Alberta has received a whopping 226 applications for independent stores just in Calgary. The Canadian West will conduct its pot sales through retail outlets.
Back East, on the other hand, there will be government owned establishments. There will be at least four government-operated stores in Montreal, while Nova Scotia will start with pot sales in nine liquor stores.
Also, the legal age of consumption will be 18 nationally, although some provinces might up that to 19, to match the legal drinking age.
Whether these government-run stores will have enough pot on hand when the stores open remains to be seen. It wouldn’t be surprising if growers stepped up now that there’s a target date in sight.
About that date…
And here’s the adorable Canadian conspiracy theory of the week: The date pot use becomes legal from Vancouver to St. Johns is October 17. Music fans across the Great White North might feel like that date has some significance to them and they’d be right: it will also be the one-year anniversary of Gord Downie’s death from brain cancer.
Remember that the Hip are partners in a medicinal growing operation, Newstrike, and that Downie and the rest of the guys have been huge advocates for the use of medicinal pot or a long time.
They’ve sold their own brand of rolling papers for years in the Gift Shop portion of their website.
And remember Trudeau loved Downie. LOVED HIM. Spoke eloquently before the final concert in Kingston, shared a beautiful hug and publicly cried when we lost him.
So… clearly Trudeau picked October 17 as the day Canadians could spark up as a way to pay another tribute to Gordie Baby.
Vape or smoke? Drink or dose?
The big question for some users, especially those new to pot, might be whether it’s better to smoke a joint or puff on a vape.
“Essentially, vaping is the heating of cannabis without burning. The heat releases the active ingredient into a vapor that is then released into the air in a fine mist created by a vaporizer device. Since combustion does not occur, some is not created,” explains Leafly.com.
Vaping is a relatively new method for conveying TCH, the chemical in pot that gives the user a high. As a result, there’s little research at this point to confirm whether vaping is a “safer” method of marijuana consumption compared with smoking. However, “studies over the years have shown that vaporizing does produce fewer carcinogenic compounds than smoking marijuana because it is heated but not combusted.” The research also suggests vape users had fewer negative respiratory damages than those who smoke.
Smoking a joint, on the other hand, or combing pot with a cigarette or cigar requires no special gear or electrical supplies, just a match and, if you’re making your own, some rolling papers. Plus, it’s much cheaper.
But there are other methods for enjoying Mary Jane, of course. One store in Montreal anticipates “in five years’ time people will be drinking cannabis drinks at a cocktail party as if drinking a good wine.” A business student envisions his future to include designing edibles beyond just lollipops but pot-infused maple syrup and jellies.
A store in Toronto’s Kensington Market told the New York Times it offers capsules, extracts, lip balm and powders in addition to dozens of varieties of pot, sativa and hybrid smokeables – Trees Station has been operating illegally for two years and plans to expand with legalization on the horizon.