Canada Has Legalized Weed. Now What?
A note from VICE Canada’s editor on Legalization Day.
Image via CP: Matthew Macdougall smokes a joint during a "Wake and Bake" legalized marijuana event in Toronto
At VICE, cannabis has long been a central aspect of our journalism. (And yes, I wrote it that way on purpose.)
We have made a one-hitter out of a potato, taken down a weed dispensary chain that was allegedly abusing its workers, interviewed Justin Trudeau about inequality in cannabis arrests, made the guy from Fucked Up try weed yoga, and created a bunch of TV shows all about weed.
Yes, that last sentence is a bit braggy, but it’s also to show that weed means different things to different people. To some people it’s harmless, occasional fun. To others it’s serious fun. To many people, it’s medicine. Some people will (incorrectly) argue it’s a gateway drug that will lead to a life of crime or worse, lead to a life of barely contributing to late capitalism. And finally, there’s a bunch of people who really don’t care one way or the other.
But no matter where you fall on the spectrum, weed is now legal in Canada, and that’s the most profound drug policy shift this country has seen in nearly a century.
Today is Canada’s Legalization Day or 10/17 or Hash Wednesday and so far, it’s been fine. The biggest noticeable change today is that a bunch of adults (roughly one in five Canadians) who regularly use cannabis have a government approved option to buy their weed from, although it’s probably a bigger pain in the ass than the dealer or dispensary they were buying weed from last week. But more importantly, Canadians will no longer be needlessly criminalized for using a relatively benign product.
Legalization is just the next chapter of our weed coverage. Canada is the biggest and wealthiest country to legalize recreational cannabis and will be closely watched by the rest of the world. While the billions made by the major cannabis companies will be a significant point of coverage, there are so many other stories that will need to be told. Edibles need to be regulated; provinces are still rolling out their distribution schemes (or in Doug Ford’s case, punting the entire thing until next spring); the black market will still exist; and weed amnesty may be on the table. And of course, there’s this country called the United States that has a temperamental reality star at its helm and shares about 9,000 kilometres of border with us, so that could pose some issues.
Cannabis legalization, as you know, hardly means that the harmful “War on Drugs” is ending. The response to the opioid crisis from the federal and provincial governments across this country shows that not even thousands of deaths can change the cold-hearted views of many politicians and police, who value “law and order” over harm reduction.
But if you have progressive views on drugs and an interest in harm reduction, there are reasons for optimism. Many medical professionals and associations are pushing for the decriminalization of all drugs and the door seems to be opening towards legalizing psychedelics as medicine. Canada has the potential to be a world leader on these fronts, particularly if cannabis legalization is successful. (And while there will certainly be hiccups of the next few years, there’s little reason to think it won’t be successful in the long run, especially if your definition of success is a bunch of business people getting rich.)
Reporting on all of these subjects is vital not only to Canadian readers but to the international community that is watching us closely. Continue to follow VICE’s coverage for in-depth journalism from the frontier of progressive drug regulation.
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