Marijuana will be legal in Canada by July next year, but not everyone is happy

‘It’s a new form of prohibition’

Earlier this month, Justin Trudeau’s government introduced a bill to Parliament that would create a legal framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use. This would make Canada only the second country in the world to do so. You would think this would be every pothead’s dream come true, but not all are happy.

There are a number of issues that have activists worried about the new legislation. Canada’s most prominent marijuana activist, Marc Emery (aka, Prince of Pot), told The Tab at Toronto’s 4/20 celebrations that the new legal regime amounted to a new form of prohibition.

The Government argue that marijuana legalization is not intended to promote the use of cannabis, but rather to get the industry out of the black market and prevent it getting into the hands of minors.

Under the proposed legislation, people would be allowed to possess and share up to 30 grams, grow up to four plants per household and buy cannabis from a provincially licensed retailer.

Whilst the legislation is a welcome change to the failed policies of outright prohibition, some still have concerns. Many of these come with the new harsher penalties for offences, like selling to anyone under 18, which carries up to 14 years in prison. To put that into context, aggravated assault carries the same maximum sentence in Canada. There are a lot of high school weed dealers that could face more than a slap on the wrist.

Another issue of concern is the fate of the thousands of people who continue to be landed with a criminal record for simple possession of cannabis, something that will be completely legal when the new law comes into force. Some opposition politicians have demanded the immediate decriminalization of cannabis whilst the legal framework is put in place. NDP leadership candidate, Niki Ashton MP told The Tab, “I think it is hypocritical to say cannabis will be legalized and yet we are continuing to criminalize those that are involved in recreational use and consumption”.

Calls on the Government to pardon those with possession convictions intensified this week when Justin Trudeau admitted that his own brother was able to escape possession charges due to the connections of his father, former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau.

Despite the impending legalization, police in cities like Toronto and Montreal have intensified their actions against cannabis dispensaries. The most notable casualty of the raids are the former owners of Canada’s famous Cannabis Culture chain of dispensaries, Marc and Jodie Emery, aka the Prince and Princess of Pot. Facing potentially more than a decade in prison, Marc told The Tab, “by the time I go to court, it might already be somewhat legal and I just don’t believe judges are going to sentence people to jail anymore”.

Bill Blair MP, former Toronto police chief, and the man in charge of creating the legislation told the London Free Press, “Unfortunately there are a number of individuals who have sort of jumped ahead of any regulatory changes and are still producing and selling marijuana illegally”, adding  “I remind them that laws should be obeyed”.

With over a year to go and Parliamentary hurdles to jump,  the law that comes out at the end may not be the same as is currently planned, either for better or worse. Whatever the issues are surrounding legalization, the majority of Canadians (63 percent) believe it is a step in the right direction.