It has now been two weeks since marijuana became legal in Canada, and it is also about 10 days, for most Canadians, since the novelty will have worn off. The tv cameras are all gone from the new legal dispensaries, as are the line ups, but apparently not the product shortages. It will take quite a while for the market to settle down and for the positive and negative implications of a relatively free market in cannabis to be established in Canada.
Most of us grew up with cannabis. For those of us who are under 70, marijuana has been a part of our lives since we were teenagers. That could mean anything from smelling it at a party once or twice to smoking on a regular basis for ten, twenty, even fifty years.
One of the outcomes of marijuana use among several generations has been a strained relationship with the law and the police.
I used marijuana as a teenager, pretty heavily at times, and more sporadically until I was somewhere in my 40’s. I stopped using it because it stopped being something I wanted to do. The fact that it was illegal had nothing to do with starting, my pattern of use, or my decision to stop. But it did, from a young age, make me feel nervous whenever I saw a police car. Was I carrying any? Was there pot in the glove box. All of these issues coloured relationships with the police, as it did for, literally, millions of Canadians, for many years.
Having a set of rules that are reasonably easy to follow regarding when ingesting cannabis is legal, how it can be stored and transported, and grown for personal use, will create a more law-abiding population, instantly. This is one of the biggest changes that took place two weeks ago. And that impact will take time to filter through.
I don’t feel any differently when I see a police car than I did when I might have been in possession of pot. Once that fear and that sense of transgression is set in place, it does not go away. But for some younger Canadians, one reason to live in fear of the police will no longer develop.
I am hopeful that as time goes on, even though governments across the county have a vested interest in taxing marijuana use, the gardeners will win out. Even before the inevitable court challenge against the 4 plant growing limit, the quality and variety of marijuana seed and cloned bedding plants will only increase over time, and the savings that cannabis users will be able to realise by growing a few plants will have an impact.
Big pot, already represented in Canada by four companies, will certainly thrive through the development of new products and the convenience of an increasingly better organised distribution system, but since ‘weed’ is easy to grow and exchange on an informal basis, it will become increasingly popular, as it should.
The prohibition on selling homegrown cannabis products will likely never go away, but over time it will become more like maple syrup. Anyone can tap a few trees and make enough syrup for their own use and to give away to friends, but in order to sell it legally there are rules that need to be followed. That is as much about safety as it is about maintaining a viable price for producers.
Some small-scale syrup producers sell a few jars and make some money doing it, but it is small potatoes and is not policed.
Cannabis may never be like that because of the health risk, but it will change as cannabis settles into its new status, a recreational drug that will come in and out of fashion. And other countries who are looking at the Canadian experience with legalisation, will soon realise that, like same sex marriage, it becomes a non-issue surprisingly quickly.
Now if we could only solve some of the real social, political, environmental and economic issues we are facing,