Why did the Canadian Government Legalize Cannabis?
Legalizing cannabis provides an opportunity to regulate a drug that is commonly used in order to minimize some of the potential harms. With regulation come health, safety and quality controls, and a greater understanding of cannabis through focused research.
Using cannabis, like alcohol or other drugs, carries some risk of harm. But the degree of risk and type of harm we might experience depend on certain factors, including:
• the concentration of THC (THC refers to the chemical compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidinol)
• the amount of cannabis used
• frequency of cannabis use
• method of consuming cannabis
One of the main risks of buying and using any illegal drug is that we can never be sure of the quality of the drug or the ingredients it contains. For example, an illegal drug can contain contaminants like mold or mildew, which may be toxic.
A Regulated System with Licensed Producers
When drugs are legal, they are produced by licensed producers and sold within a regulated system (such as at the pharmacy for prescription drugs or at the liquor store for alcohol) and so the ingredients and dosage of products are known to us – this is now the case for cannabis due to legalization. Such information helps us better understand and manage potential risks.
The system being established in Canada will ensure that cannabis is tested for quality, which will provide for better management of health risks. Taxation revenue collected from legal cannabis sales will contribute to long term medical research and public education efforts, helping us to better understand the health impacts of cannabis use.
The legalization of cannabis also provides opportunities to engage in honest and thoughtful discussions about drug use with our families, friends, Elders, knowledge keepers and communities. When dealing with complex issues like cannabis legalization, no one has all the answers. But as community members, we all have our own thoughts, feelings and experiences about drugs and drug use. Working together to explore and share ideas will help us discover how to increase knowledge and minimize harm for people that use cannabis.
Public and Private Retailers
Cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018. The BC government will be the lone wholesaler through the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. There will be a hybrid system of public and private retailers, and no co-selling of cannabis with liquor or tobacco is allowed. The legal age of possession in BC is 19, with adults allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis. Some First Nations in BC are passing their own cannabis laws and regulations and establishing retail operations under provincial or Nation-based laws.
It is likely that cannabis will still be available outside the regulated government system to some extent, as it was before legalization.