In about twenty-four hours, recreational cannabis will be legal in Canada for adults over 19. I have no desire to use the stuff, but I find watching this absolutely fascinating from a business and social standpoint.
Today in the mail there was a card from the federal government: “The Cannabis Act: Here’s What You Need to Know”. It explained the legal age to buy recreational cannabis (18, 19, or possibly older, depending on province/territory), mentions penalties for selling or giving it to youth, mentions an excise stamp on legal packages, instructs the reader not to drive high (there has been a campaign in Ontario for at least the past year about this), warns against taking it across the border, and finally reminds the reader that cannabis for medical purposes is covered under completely-different regulations.
Things I have noticed: the term ‘cannabis’ is taking over from ‘marijuana’. The original version of the regulations allowing medical use of cannabis in Canada, dating from 2001, used the term ‘marihuana’. But all the news reports, etc, these days use the term ‘cannabis’.
For some time, there have been many ‘dispensaries’ that seem to sell medical cannabis. I’m mot sure whether they were selling illegal cannabis, or just providing a place for medical users to use cannabis, or were licensed medical producers, or what. I have been in a ‘cannabis lounge’ that did not sell cannabis, but provided a friendly place to use it. (I was part of a tour group touring Kensington Market in Toronto, and the lounge was just one of the stops.)
In Ontario, the Liberal government was planning to sell cannabis through state-owned stores similar to Ontario’s state-owned liquor stores. (The LCBO, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, is one of the largest single buyers of alcoholic drinks in the world.) So the government set up a new corporation, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, which would sell cannabis online and through a network of stores, called, unsurprisingly, “Ontario Cannabis Stores” (OCS).
Then there was an election. The Liberal government fell, and the new Conservative government announced that private retailers would be allowed to sell cannabis. But there would have to be new legislation and a new licensing system put in place, so Ontario stores will not open until early 2019. The OCRC will now serve as the wholesaler to the stores. As a result, as of October 17th, the only legal place to buy cannabis in Ontario will be the OCS website. (I am not sure what would prevent the OCRC from opening its planned brick-and-mortar stores, even if that was not going to be its focus…)
Other provinces are doing other things.
So on Wednesday, when not at work, I will be watching the news to see what is going on…