How Canada is blazing a legalized trail
What does the world think of a legalized Canada?
Words— Odessa Paloma Parker
With Canada’s recent legalization of marijuana, we thought we’d explore the issue in a four-part series on Canadian cannabis. We've explored the history, examined modern weed tech, had a look at the changing face of the pothead and now this week, Odessa Paloma Parker looks at a newly legalized Canada.
Well, the dust has settled on post-legalization Canada, and let’s be honest, it’s more or less business as usual here with the exception of many wondering, “Where’s my weed?” While we might be enjoying (or impatiently waiting to enjoy) what many believe has been a long time coming for Canadians, we can’t take for granted that abroad, the possibility of being able to legally and comfortably purchase cannabis is quite a far-fetched notion.
My more recent trips to London have resulted in me fielding all manner of weed-related questions from people – curious journalists, mostly – who live in Italy, Germany and Brazil. I’ve also heard several giddy recollections from mid-40-something blokes telling me about using a single-dose pen for the first time since smoking skunk in university. All these convos take me mentally to quite a different place than my cushy, hand-hewn pipe set-up at home – one I essentially take for granted at this point.
It’s easy to gloss over how normalized cannabis has become in Canada, even if it feels like we still have a way to go in the stigma-busting sense, and certainly in terms of how communities and individuals harmed by prohibition will be impacted moving forward. In most countries, recreational-use cannabis consumption still carries heavy legal penalties, resulting in the procurement of product being incredibly dodgy and prompting newspapers to run headlines about it being the cause of all manner of societal ills. So, it’s no surprise that our recent foray into rec-use legalization is igniting hope for a greener tomorrow within those inside and outside of the cannabis industry, and of Canada.
“I thought it was a step in the right direction and was immediately filled with the smug jamminess inspired when your native country executes maturity on a subject clouded by much-misguided fear,” says illustrator and futures researcher Nicola Ferrao, who moved from Toronto to London six years ago. “Broadly speaking, there doesn't appear to be a sense of refinement, sophistication, [and] variety [here] – like, nobody is having conversations about how weed – not including CBD oil – can be used to treat things, like severe endometriosis,” she adds.
As with many of us, Ferrao’s initial excitement shifts to thoughtful contemplation about the repercussions and realities of post-legalization pot. “Now I wonder how the conversation about reparations will be led,” she adds. “How do people with life-changing convictions benefit from legalization – can they participate in this new market? I also wonder how many people of colour, specifically women, will benefit from these seemingly new business opportunities? Who gets a seat at the table? Who decides?”
"The road to regulation is still far from smooth at its infancy; patience, perseverance and resilience are crucial and key in this process."
Ferrao raises significant questions that aren’t going unnoticed within our government or cannabis industry itself. For California-based advocate and entrepreneur Jackie Subeck of Hey Jackpot! defining what post-prohibition action means for those impacted by the almost 100-year-old legislation is of utmost importance, and she highlights her state’s advancements approach in terms of what Canada could learn.
“In cannabis, we’ve established the phrase ‘social equity’ to define how we are going to take care of our communities that have been impacted the most by the War on Drugs,” Subeck says. “We have communities in L.A., Oakland and many other places up and down the state that took the brunt of enforcement. Huge percentages of black and brown men are missing from those communities because they were arrested and incarcerated for the exact same thing that their white brothers and sisters do at a much higher rate. We have an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the world how to have responsible cannabis businesses. There’s nothing wrong with making money and you can buy your boat one day, but let it not be by crawling on the backs of those who have paid the ultimate price for using this now legal plant.”
Caroline Mauro, founder of the brand Inda Creations, which offers wares including discreet pipes and infused apothecary items, has watched rec-use legalization unfold around her from her new base in California; she’s originally from Vermont, which is currently a medical-use legal state – it became one in 2004. She knows the advancement towards recreational-use legalization and tolerance is obviously not a swift one, even in states that recognize the medicinal worth of cannabis.
If anything, this crawl highlights how valuable positive experiences – like the one Canada is in the process of crafting – will be in terms of forging a path to global legalization, but also identifies there’s a long road ahead for all. “I remember someone once told fellow cannabis entrepreneurs and I at a meeting regarding new legislative measures: ‘Remember, you are flying the airplane that’s being built’, which has since stuck with me. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Just because we legalize, doesn’t mean the process will be without its kinks. The road to regulation is still far from smooth at its infancy; patience, perseverance and resilience are crucial and key in this process.”
Canada has the unique position of not the first place to legalize pot, but certainly the most high-profile given the federal reach of Bill C-45 (the ‘Cannabis Act’) and our inclusion in the G7. And with our proximity to the U.S. and generally positive reputation worldwide, the pervasive sentiment surrounding what happened on October 17th, 2018, seems to be that all eyes are on us to lead the way when it comes to setting standards for scientific advancements, normalization of attitudes towards cannabis, and how to right the wrongs of the past – ultimately, changing hearts and minds across the globe.
“I think the fact that Canada has taken this giant step forward will serve as a positive reinforcement for other countries around the globe to move towards cannabis legalization,” says Subeck. “Let’s face it – in today’s world, it takes guts to legalize cannabis on a federal level and personally, I applaud Justin Trudeau and his entire administration for showing the entire planet that it can be done without the world coming to an end.”