On Wednesday 17 October, Canada became only the second country to legalise the possession and use of recreational marijuana. As I write a week after the law came into force, Canada appears to be taking steps in the right direction. But, inevitably, bumps in the road to a stoner utopia have already materialised. The week opened with legal dispensaries running out of cannabis due to high demand. Consumers resorted back to the black market to buy the amount that the former cannot supply, partly because of problems with securing it. This now-legal industry looks set to be worth $6.5 billion annually. However, at least for now, it’s finding its feet as it tries to catch up with demand.
The war on drugs has failed and we are seeing wider and more in-depth debate on weed as a drug distinct from any other. Canada’s decision to change tack on policy, with campaigns focused on harm-reduction rather than prohibition, can only result in progress as more and more public discussion is had. Any country that hopes to bring safety, or even control, to use of this recreational drug should watch closely. Note that I say watch closely as opposed to diving head-long into following suit.
With this leap in progress, Canada will undoubtedly see improvements in the safe use of recreational marijuana but greater research, including more accurate information on the drug and its effects, is needed. Failing this, they face issues with making hollow claims in their campaigns for responsible use. For example, a campaign on drug-impaired driving features vague statistics on the risks of driving whilst high, some statements being specific to weed and others simply referring to the generic ‘drug’. If the government is not sufficiently aware of the risks, it’s difficult to see how they will convince the Canadian public to step in line, let alone become informed enough to use safely.
If they manage to pull it off, the legalisation of marijuana could be a huge success not only for Canada, but for everyone who believes that weed should be controlled, legalised or utilised for its benefits safely. And who knows, perhaps this momentum will begin to make waves here in the United Kingdom in the future. I for one will be watching in anticipation.
Image: GoToVan

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