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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

OH CANADA! - by Kathy Hess

     On Thursday, April 14th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made good on his campaign promises to the Canucks and revealed to parliament the House of Commons, Bill-C, the Cannabis Act, in hopes of making Canada the second nation worldwide to legalize recreational use of cannabis. Although it could take more than a year to finalize the legislation, Trudeau’s is hopeful they will pass Bill-C by July 1st, 2018 (Canada Day).
Huzzah Canada!

 Uruguay became the first nation to free the weed in December of 2013.  They have endured a long process in finalizing the laws and regulations, yet plan to open their first dispensary later this summer still making them the first country to legalize cannabis for its citizens.  But if the United States isn’t going to be the second nation to recognize all the health, safety, criminal and economic benefits to legalizing cannabis on a recreational level, then as Michiganders, we’re lucky that such liberties will only be a few klicks away.

Provinces will have the ability to tweak the laws as they see fit, in similar fashion to how laws vary here state by state for cannabis and liquor, as long as they adhere to the federal limitations.

     Current legislation quickly covers the biggest concern with most Canadians, protecting children, but they have also included provisions for how EMT’s are to handle and respond to marijuana overdoses. Overdoses? On Cannabis? Well that should be easy.

     Minimum age of allowance is currently proposed at 18, however there is already talk in some provinces of setting their limits at 21 or even as high as 25.  Of course, Bill-C also provided guidelines for criminal punishment if anyone is caught selling to a minor, up to 14 years in prison. They have established strict limitations on packaging and branding to prevent the “luring” of minors. No use of any real or fictional people, characters or animals on product packaging, or the use of material that “evokes a positive or negative emotion.”  Companies are not allowed to use testimonials or endorsements.  In many ways, its projected to mirror the tobacco industry in Canada, and not all that different than what our tobacco packaging laws are in the States.

     “Branding” becomes the questionable topic in relations to the Bills attempt to protect children.  Although most of Canada’s house members agree that branding is necessary, especially when being able to inform the buyer what they are purchasing.  Is it a sativa gene or indica? A good 50/50 blend, or a cbd gene? Is it recreational grade of medical grade?  Is it from the black market or the legal, tested and verified to be free of molds, mites and mildew recreational/medical market?  Branding a product however, inevitably induces emotions of some sort, making it questionable.

     Considering the current confusion to much of the medical marijuana community when it comes to the labeling of strains, and what one purchases from caregivers or safe transport locations here in Michigan, it will certainly be interesting to see if the branding of marijuana will help create a language for cannabis in Canada or perhaps North America.  To cut through the ambiguity of OG Kush, G-13 and Purple Haze. Caregivers and safe transports often creatively naming their strains to protect its genome or to make it more marketable.  One can understand how people new to the cannabis scene are lost to what they are getting.

     As the Bills stands, Canadians would be able to grow up to four plants per household, and are restricted to possessing to 30grams of dried product, with edibles to be determined at a later date.  It would also appear that they plan to integrate some of the current medical marijuana industries implementations to the recreational side.

     For example, Canucks can have their medical marijuana mailed directly to them from their provider.  It’s believed that recreation users will be able to do the same. Most of those who approve of the Bill envision the market to mirror that of the tobacco industry.  Cannabis shops will likely be independent of liquor and tobacco shops.  Considering the limitations of four plants per household, it would appear that this Bill assumes most will be getting their product from the commercial growers, who will be licensed and regulated by the federal government.  Anyone found operating outside of federal regulations will remain punishable, according to Ralph Goodale, the public safety minister.

   Some of the more conservative provinces have already debated altering these restrictions to be a little stricter. Which has caused for the typical back and forth infighting you see here in the states with their elected officials bickering over the potential industry.

     Conservatives accuse liberals of setting regulations to benefit liberal agendas, and the pockets of liberal house members who have personal or business ties to companies already established in Canada’s legal medical marijuana industry.  Liberals accuse Conservatives of trying to protect the interest of other established industries. Legalization would open the door for hundreds of other cannabis/hemp based products into the market, from paper and clothing to possible biodegradable plastics.

     There are a few conservatives trying to quell their parties verbal opposition.  With the majority of Canadians (58%) approving the recreational use of cannabis, fighting this issue would not assist conservatives in upcoming elections.

     Kevin O’Leary, a serious conservative contender for an upcoming House seat believes the Conservative party membership understands it has to embrace “a much larger constituency.”

“I think the party has moved into the place now where they understand it’s going to be part of the Canadian culture.  In order for the Conservative Party to be relevant, to actually build a platform that can remove Justin Trudeau from power in 2019, we have to have a very large tent.”

     Even though a few on the conservative side support it, there could still be opposition to the final Bill.  It’s not set in stone, and their seems to be a large push back that the federal minimum age requirement is so low.  Bill-C is certainly something to keep our eyes on over the next year or so.

 Of course, close proximity will allow for many of us Michiganders to see firsthand how legalizing cannabis nationally can change a nation.  If Bill-C passes we have to wonder if and how that might play a factor in the U.S. legalizing the herb for recreational use.   Will it change relations between our two nations?  Our current administration has revealed its opposition to those states who have already passed medical marijuana measures.  One has to assume the White House isn’t pleased with Canada’s step forward.

     Looking to cross the pond, visit our friendly neighbors to the north and partake in the new maple leaf when it becomes legal? Be sure to have your passport, or enhanced driver’s license ready.  Since June of 2009, Canada has required anyone entering the country to have proper documentation.

     Oh Canada, the stage is yours come Canada Day next year (hopefully).  Will you be taking over the cannabis industry and cornering a worldwide market?   Time will only tell.
We’ll be watching.

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