As the deadline for recreational marijuana legalization fast approaches, it's becoming more and more clear that Canada is unprepared.
TL;DR Here are 8 reasons why Canada is unprepared for marijuana legalization.
Despite their best efforts to educate the public, officials had to contend with the complete ignorance of millions of people when legalization was first announced.
Total unfamiliarity with the drug and untested law enforcement practices will only exacerbate the situation.
These are the factors that could doom legalization at its very outset:
There's not enough supply
Early reports suggest that Canada will quickly run out of cannabis supply. In every province, the government has a monopoly on bulk distribution. While some provinces have opted for government-run retailers, others are permitting private stores to distribute marijuana to the public.
All retailers, however, may empty their shelves within a short period of time. The government has no real way to measure demand until retail doors open. But some predict that it will be high enough to sell out the drug across the country.
In that case, the cannabis industry will come to a grinding halt. Millions of dollars will be potentially wasted. There's no telling how long it will take until another viable supply becomes available.
Police have no idea what they're getting into
While the federal Cannabis Act amended the Criminal Code to specify marijuana-related offenses after legalization, Canadians are still largely ignorant of the new laws.
To make matters more confusing for consumers, marijuana regulations vary greatly province to province, and even municipality to municipality.
That confusion will likely amount to a law enforcement nightmare. Thousands of people could break the law inadvertently. The lack of a "grace period," during which consumers will receive mere warnings after marijuana-related infractions, means that police will also have no choice but to expend resources to exercise the full extent of the law for every one of these violations.
In addition, law enforcement tactics for weed-related offenses are largely untested. Police across the country have introduced a mandatory blood test for high drivers, but the accuracy of the test and the logistics of roadside blood draws remain to be seen.
Police will also face challenges as parties break out on October 17th. In provinces where public smoking will be permitted, those challenges multiply. Police will have to monitor crowds of hundreds of high revellers.
Minors will also try to get their hands on legal product. There are strict punishments for supplying a minor with marijuana, but the frenzy of legalization and the proliferation of the drug will unfortunately mean that more young people will get their hands on the drug, at least on October 17th.
Police will have to work quickly to prevent th black market reselling of marijuana.
Roads may become unsafe
Despite strict punishments for high driving, among the excitement of legalization, confusion about legal THC levels, and ignorance of personal limits, some people will undoubtedly take to the roads after enjoying their first taste of legal marijuana. That will create a dangerous situation. Canadians should not, under any circumstances, get behind the wheel after consuming marijuana.
The potentially thousands of high people that will take to the streets by foot on legalization day will only further endanger motorists and pedestrians, alike.
Thousands of people will line up
On such a momentous occassion, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people will want to take part in store grand openings.
Expect lines that wrap around city blocks.
Those crowds will be not only a security risk but also a serious nuisance. How law enforcement and neighbouring property owners will manage these crowds is unclear.
Such crowds will also only further congest morning commutes, especially by public transit.
Stores will be overwhelmed
With limited supply and thousands of customers to serve, cannabis retailers will be overwhelmed.
In Montreal, for example, only four stores will have to serve the entire city population.
Store security will have to monitor the number of people allowed in a store at once while customer service workers will need to interact with every single one of them.
Because the drug will be new to many, servers will have to spend extra time interacting with customers. That unfamiliarity will only multiply wait times and line lengths.
There will be an influx of American tourists
Marijuana is still federally illegal in the United States, despite its legalization in some states.
American weed enthusiasts are nonetheless eyeing Canada with intrigue. People in the United States are well-aware that legal marijuana is as accessible as a hop across the border.
So while experts and officials calculate demand on October 17th, they are likely underestimating the impact of weed tourism. Americans can't exactly declare their intention to travel to Canada for marijuana.
This influx of Americans will inevitably create serious legal problems.
While the Canadian government has expended innumerable resources trying to educate the public ahead of legalization, Americans are totally oblivious to Canadian marijuana laws.
There will also inevitably be problems at the border. Ports of entry will come to a standstill as American border agents scrutinize Americans' activity in Canada. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will also likely be especially probing in their questions and searches in the week after legalization.
The law is still unclear
Officials are still scrambling to finalize cannabis regulations. Companies, provinces, municipalities, and public agencies are working hard to release their own rules by legalization. Parks Canada only today announced its own cannabis policy for national parks.
The plethora of information that has already been released coupled with still unresolved legal grey areas will create legal confusion from the courts to the consumers.
People are misinformed
People are still clueless about marijuana. Misinformation is still circulating despite a public education initiative.
Hopefully in the coming weeks people will begin to grasp the truths about marijuana and the Cannabis Act when legalization severs the gag on widespread discussion of the drug.