After Newness Fades, Canada Settles All the way down to Authorized Marijuana

As part of The Times’ Promises Made series, I looked back on Canada’s experience as the first major industrial nation to legalize recreational marijuana. One thing struck me in the many weeks that I have spent reporting this: it may have been a big event, but it was not a revolution.

“We Canadians have passed the initial stages of ‘cannabis is going to destroy us, cannabis is going to radically change our culture’. It is pretty obvious that it has not,” said Daniel Werb, epidemiologist and drug policy analyst at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and Assistant Professor of Public Health at the University of California at San Diego. “One of the biggest results is that it was utterly boring. Now that the first wave of euphoria and awe is over, we understand that it’s okay to make changes in this market without things falling radically apart. “

[Read: 2 Years After Legalizing Cannabis, Has Canada Kept Its Promises?]

I noted that some of the government’s key promises have been fulfilled, while others are still in the works and others will most likely still be the subject of great debate when Parliament begins a formal review of the law on its third anniversary in October, likely to take a year and a half.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented legalization with an argument of fairness. He argued that it was unfair to turn people into criminals for possessing small amounts of marijuana and potentially ruining their lives.

A statistic illustrates the effects of legalization in a dramatic way. In 2018, before the law went into effect in October, police recorded 26,402 cases of possession. In 2019 there were only 46.

However, in my reporting I found that there are still issues with fairness. While the petty possession charges that once disproportionately affected Indigenous and black Canadians no longer exist, members of these groups are particularly absent on the business side of the new industry that the law created. Even so, a system that allows people to erase previous convictions for marijuana possession is so costly and complicated that few people have bothered to use it. And despite the promise to include indigenous communities in the system, the law has left businesses operating on their land in legal limbo.

The illegal market has not disappeared. However, statistics show that consumers are shifting to the legal system and that large illegal farmers are increasingly focusing on exporting to the US.

Mr. Trudeau vowed that a legal structure would keep marijuana away from children and adolescents. Researchers I spoke to said the arrival of a legal marijuana market didn’t spark much interest among teenagers to use it. While marijuana use has not increased significantly overall, most new Canadian users are well past middle age.

While it appears that the provision of police systems and training to detect marijuana impairment among motorists remains delayed, no one in the law enforcement agencies I’ve spoken to believes stoned driving has occurred since 2018 has increased significantly.

Mr. Trudeau did not promise to create a lucrative new cannabis-based industry. But a “green rush” from investors caused marijuana stocks to skyrocket ahead of legalization. Since then, profits in the industry have proven elusive, stock prices have fallen, and top managers at many companies have been shown the door.

A second article about what I found on the Canadian marijuana industry business page is coming soon. One thing is that, later this year, Canadians should be prepared for the industry to push hard to promote and promote marijuana the same way brewers and winemakers sell their products. The current system for marijuana is more like the rules for cigarettes and effectively prohibits marketing and advertising.

In this case, expect industry lobbying to be challenged with equally fierce arguments from health and addiction researchers that allowing alcohol marketing was a grave mistake that should not be repeated with marijuana.

  • Feigang Fei is probably the sharpest critic of the menu items in his Montreal restaurant, reports Dan Bilefsky. Here is Mr. Fei’s take on his braised pork belly. “This is a very popular dish with customers who don’t care about fatness.” But after a customer posted AuntDai’s menu on Twitter and praised its “extremely honest” owner, Mr. Fei is struggling to keep up with the demand for his take-away meals.

  • The former manager of a casino operator and his wife, an actress, both from Vancouver, hopped on Covid-19 vaccinations on a charter flight to a Yukon village. Now they face fines, police investigations and widespread anger.

  • George Armstrong, the first indigenous player to score in the NHL, passed away this week. The Hockey Hall of Fame striker also captained the Toronto Maple Leafs teams, which have won four Stanley Cups.

  • The International Real Estate feature shows an unusually shaped house on the Rideau River south of Ottawa.

Ian Austen is from Windsor, Ontario. He trained in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has been reporting on Canada for the New York Times for 16 years. Follow him on Twitter @ianrausten.

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