Yesterday was a monumental day for marijuana-use in Canada, and not just because it was 420.
In a rather well-timed speech given at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly, Canada's Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a federal legislation that will officially legalize cannabis will be put forward by next spring.
Yes, you heard that right, in a year's time marijuana legalization will be one step closer to reality in Canada.
But don't get the information twisted, because the Liberal government's plan to create a new bill on legal marijuana for spring 2017 does not mean that cannabis will actually be legalized by that time.
A lot more work, preparation, and information needs to be gathered and prepared before the legislation is even written, not to mention the governmental processes that will follow once the bill is actually done.
Still, the UN announcement/speech made by Canada's Health Minister is pretty important, heralding a fair amount of change in Canada. In order to make sure you're completely in-the-know on the issue and everything that may come forward regarding legalized marijuana in our fair nation, here's a breakdown of all the essential info.
The First Step Towards Legalization
As many of you may remember, the notion of legal-weed in Canada came into vogue during current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election campaign. Either as a way to gain favour with certain voters or to truly change Canada for the better, the Liberal party promised that, if/when elected, they would legalize marijuana.
As we all know, the Trudeau Liberal government would win the election race and had to live up to their claim. The first move towards getting the ball on legalized marijuana rolling came in November when Trudeau sent a "Mandate Letter" to Canada's Health Minister Jane Philpott.
A lot of stuff was covered in the public mandate letter, but the only cannabis-related segment is Trudeau's request for Philpott to "work with [her] colleagues...on efforts that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana."
After the letter, however, things were pretty quiet on the legalized marijuana front. While the government said they were working towards getting Canada to be a legal-weed country, nothing really came about. Which brings us to yesterday...
The UN Marijuana Legislation Announcement
Because the Liberal government is fairly well aware that April 20th is a pretty big day for cannabis enthusiasts, they used the "weed holiday" to their advantage. Basically, they used 420, "a day that we know people are going to be talking about marijuana" noted Health Minister Philpott, "to talk to people around the world about Canada's plans...[on] drug policy."
And so, taking the stage at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly, Jane Philpott told the leaders of the world that Canada is going forward a plan to legalize marijuana.
You can actually watch most of the announcement in the video below.
Important Points To Take Away From The UN Speech
As a whole, Philpott's statement to the UN is a pretty big deal, and anyone can understand the main theme of the speech: The Liberal government of Canada is creating a bill to make marijuana legal in Canada.
But, there were a few specific comments made by Philpott that are quite telling of how the Liberal government may approach marijuana legislation in their legislation.
For one, Philpott made sure to emphasize how the new drug policy will create a safer environment for children. Starting her speech with a story about a mother who lost her daughter to drug use, Philpott then directly said the legislation will "keep marijuana out of the hands of children."
The tail-end of the previous quote also includes keeping "profits out of the hands of criminals," so it's pretty apparent the majority Canadian government will be trying to make some solid profits from the production and sale of marijuana once its legalized. No surprise there.
Philpott also noted how Canada can't simply "arrest our way out of this problem," implying that suppressing the criminal element involved with the cannabis industry isn't going to fix anything in the long run. Instead, Canada needs a new approach to marijuana, hence the announced legislation.
You can also read Philpott's full statement here, for more insight into the Liberal's plan to legalize marijuana.
Regular Canadians Will Have Their Say
When explaining some of the mechanics of the soon-to-be-written bill to media outlets, which will apparently cover the packaging and labelling of all government-produced marijuana products, Philpott also said the draft "will be open to comment from Canadians."
Exactly how much input the average Canadian will have on the Liberal bill, and how such information will be gathered, remains to be seen, of course, but it's nice to know that the government is at least trying to keep the population's opinion in mind.
Weed Will NOT Be Legal By Spring 2017
This may be pretty plain to some, but I think it requires some reinforcement: marijuana isn't going to be legal in Canada by next spring.
Yes, the Liberal party plans to have their new bill on legalized marijuana ready for spring 2017, but that's just the start to a very long process. Even a majority government needs to follow a very long procedure for approval when introducing a new legislation, one that involves many stages and re-writes before receiving royal assent.
Even the "spring 2017" deadline could shift. That's just when the Liberals plan to have the bill written, and as with anything any government says ever, they could just go back on their word and push that deadline forward.
A "Task Force" Will Be Created
Following Philpott's speech the Liberal government also announced that a "marijuana task force" is going to be created in the coming weeks that will "closely examine and evaluate every aspect of their goal to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana."
Basically, the task force will be looking into the feasibility of legalizing marijuana in Canada, including how production will be handled, how it will be sold, and what the taxation rate on weed will be. Views and insights from "provincial and territorial governments, key experts and the general public" are to be included in the task force's analysis and report.
Heading the task force will be Bill Blair, a current Liberal MP and former Toronto police chief.
Canada Is Actually Going Back On Its Word
As noted by many media outlets, the Liberal Party's public announcement on the legalization of marijuana in Canada is in direct conflict with three different global treaties signed by the nation.
To be fair, these treaties on illicit drug use weren't signed by the current Liberal Party, as they were signed by past Canadian governments, but it will be interesting to see if there is any international backlash or criticism that stems from this fact.
Marijuana Now In A Legal "Grey Zone"
So the Liberal Party has basically said that they're on board with marijuana, and they're officially working towards changing the law so cannabis is legal, thus isn't weed practically legal already? I mean, if the majority government of Canada says it's okay, doesn't that make is so?
Well, not quite, as several law enforcement officials have stated. While some police forces have noted marijuana is now in a legal "grey zone" (they know its going to be legal but it isn't at the moment), that doesn't make it legal in any real sense.
President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Clive Weighill, even went on to publicly say that "police officers are not anti-marijuana, but they are still police officers and they need to enforce the law." And until the Liberal bill is passed, the law will remain the same, so the police need to treat marijuana as illegal until then.
Not that the casual marijuana smoker needs to worry that much here in Montreal, but just know, that if a cop wanted to bust you for carrying weed, they totally can.
What Legal Marijuana Will Probably Look Like In Canada
No one can really say what will be included in the Liberal Party's legislation, nor what will change after it is presented to the House of Commons, but some have already speculated as to what Canada's legal marijuana system could look like.
In previous statements, the Liberal Party has stated the the "Colorado Model" may serve as the basis for Canada's adoption of a legalized marijuana system. The model pretty much allows anyone over the age of 21 to have a full ounce of THC products (bud, edibles, oils, etc.) without the need for a special card or registration. You can even grow your own weed under this model, too.
Investment analyst Aaron Salz from Dundee Capital Markets told Reuters that "many investors expect the federal government to dictate the supply chain, while provincial governments oversee the distribution model." With that in mind, we may have province-controlled marijuana retail stores, like the SAQ but for weed.
What the Liberal Party will actually include in their proposed system won't be made public for another year, so this all remains speculation until then. Happy waiting everyone.