Trudeau vowed to legalize marijuana across Canada by July. It hasn’t been that easy.
Canada is set to become the first industrialized nation to legalize and regulate marijuana from production to consumption by next July, but increasingly, Canadians are wondering: What’s the hurry?
The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pressing ahead with legislation to legalize cannabis, a move that a majority of the Canadian public supports. But stakeholders such as police chiefs and psychiatrists are urging caution and even delay, worried that a rush to legalization will encourage consumption among young people and increase the incidence of impaired driving.
Under the proposed legislation, the Canadian government would license the growing of cannabis by tightly regulated producers and set standards for potency and penalties for abuse; the provinces would decide on methods for distribution.
“If legislation is ready to go in July 2018, policing will not be ready to go in August. It’s impossible,” Rick Barnum, deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, told the health committee of Canada’s House of Commons last month as it studied the proposed law.
Barnum was part of a contingent of police chiefs from across Canada expressing concern that there isn’t time to train enough police officers to detect impaired driving among cannabis users and that if police are not ready for legalization, organized crime will take advantage of the situation to secure its hold on the market.
Doctors are also worried by the legislation, which will set the minimum age for consumption at 18, although Canada’s 10 provinces will be permitted to raise the minimum age if they wish.
Trudeau shows no signs of wavering in his push for legalization, which he promised in his successful election campaign two years ago. “The current framework is hurting Canadians,” he said recently. “Criminal gangs and street gangs are making millions of dollars of profits off the sale of marijuana, and we need to put an end to this policing that does not work.”