The Canadian government is weeks away from unveiling its legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, with reports indicating the market could open up as early as July 2018.
In the meantime, numerous illegal pot dispensaries are expected to continue flourishing across the country.
CBC News reported on Sunday that the Liberals, which hold a majority in the Canadian Parliament, will announce their proposed law during the week of April 10, and that it will broadly align with the legalization blueprint found in the federal task force report released last year — although the exact details of the law remain unclear. The task force report recommends setting the minimum age for buying cannabis at 18, and allowing for limited home growing.
“We’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users”
The Liberals’ plan will also, reportedly, give the federal government control over the companies producing recreational pot by issuing licenses, like it does with the current regime for medical marijuana patients. A spokesperson for Health Canada wouldn’t confirm the details to VICE News, saying only that more information will be shared “this spring.”
It will mark a crucial milestone for what many expect to become the world’s biggest and most sophisticated legal marijuana market.
For months, investors have rushed to buy stocks in Canadian medical marijuana companies, widely expected to be in charge of rolling out the recreational side of the business, as cannabis activists have vowed to fight attempts to shut down their dispensary operations and any new tightly regulated supply chain.
Over the last year, the Toronto Police have ramped up raids on dozens of pot shops across the city, and have a host of possession and trafficking charges, though most end up getting quashed in court.
According to the CBC, individual provinces and territories will decide how the recreational supply is distributed — which could include through storefront sales, something the task force explicitly encouraged. Currently, only Canadian medical patients with cannabis prescriptions are allowed to purchase their supply through the 40 or so federally regulated companies, or grow their own limited supply.
“We’re going to do it to protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.”
NDP leadership candidates criticized Trudeau’s marijuana legalization plan during their debate on Sunday, even going so far as to suggest he would not fulfill his promise. The party has long called for a wholesale decriminalization of the drug.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed frustration over dispensaries, and continues to rebuff calls to decriminalize marijuana before it becomes legal, saying that such a move would put children and communities at risk. “The current prohibition stands,” Trudeau told the Toronto Star editorial board last December. “We’re not legalizing marijuana to please recreational users … we’ve said we’re going to do it to protect our kids and to keep the money out of the pockets of criminals.”