It’s high time to celebrate cannabis in Canada

Stoners rejoice! Yes, recreational cannabis legalization finally came into effect on Oct. 17, marking a great day for Canada and, therefore, the world. While many naysayers speculated that society would collapse in a half-baked haze, it seems as though all crises have been averted in the wake of legal weed being ushered in across the nation. In fact, the only complaints overheard as of yet seem to be from cannabis consumers themselves. But, before we get to the negative press, let’s focus on all of the spectacular opportunities Bill C-45 has introduced!

The structure of cannabis sales will aim to create a tailored, informative, and safe experience that people both familiar and unfamiliar with cannabis can benefit from. William Lalonde/Argosy

First and foremost is the opportunity for safe and easy access to cannabis for all Canadian adults. No longer will you have to creep to your dealer’s dimly lit apartment in the cover of shadows, choosing from a small variety of “probably not what the strain actually is” options. Instead, you can proudly wear your cannabis consumption on your sleeve, as you and 78 others wait in line to choose from a nearly equal number of products!

In reality, if you had a dealer before now, this legislation won’t drastically affect your relationship with cannabis. It will, however, offer an extremely accessible and, more importantly, educational aspect to purchasing and consuming cannabis – one that is more interactive than access to medical-use cannabis or parlaying with your friendly neighborhood drug dealer. Now “canna-curious” people can be informed as to how to choose cannabis as an alternative to prescription opiates or alcohol for relaxation or stimulation, all without the fear of persecution under the law. And, if you have a problem with the product, you no longer have to argue with your dealer that you got bad bud – you can contact the company that grew it and receive a refund.

Another fantastic outcome is the opportunity to now pardon past cannabis possession offences under 30 grams, giving so many the opportunity to work, rent homes or lease vehicles: all things which require a criminal background check. Considering the last attempt to decriminalize recreational cannabis possession in 2016 was only shot down because marijuana possession itself had yet to be legalized, there should be no barriers in moving forward this time around. This would be especially important to minority groups who, historically, have been far more likely to be targeted and charged for marijuana-related offences. Maintaining these criminal charges does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of poverty by keeping the disadvantaged from attaining meaningful employment or pursuing financial opportunity, all for something which is now legal.

Legalization will also re-introduce the debate for more freedom regarding access to cannabis for research purposes, which is critical for consumer health and safety with plans for expansion of the marijuana market into products such as concentrates and edibles. Currently, researchers must apply for an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, a lengthy and often fruitless process.

Finally, from a purely financial standpoint, the national revenue generated from the public sale of pot is estimated to be in the range of $5 billion to $6 billion annually. That would put cannabis just outside of the top 25 grossing industries in Canada. It would equate to roughly $99 million of revenue in New Brunswick, generating nearly $15 million in tax dollars for our province. Those are tax dollars which are desperately needed in our snail-paced economy. The industry will also provide a large amount of employment both directly and indirectly through production and sale of associated paraphernalia, which will undoubtedly increase in the coming months.

While many chronics will be left groaning at the price, that’s to be expected of anything the government gets their hands onto. But, this middleman fee includes Health Canada regulation and quality control so, in essence, you are paying for what will be a safer, more trustworthy product overall.

The other concern has been in regards to long lineups, with some locations across the province seeing wait times exceeding two hours since legalization. This is truly a testament to the demand for a trusted source of cannabis in our province, which should delight anyone interested in the revenue aspect. However, as shoppers establish their stashes and initial curiosity dies down, so too will the immense lines.

The legalization of recreational cannabis has brought many exciting new opportunities to our country, especially in New Brunswick. The ability to give so many a second chance after a harmless infraction, the opportunity to educate and introduce people to a new and exciting experience, the chance to capitalize on a young, thriving industry with a ton of potential: these are all reasons to celebrate, not condemn, the legalization of cannabis in Canada.

As for those who can’t come to terms with the change brought on by legalization, as Gord Downie once said, “You can’t be fond of living in the past, ’cause if you are then there’s no way that you’re going to last.”

Matt Durnnian
Matt Durnnian is a contributor to the Argosy.