Bill C-45: A Preventative Measure or the Gateway to Easy Canadian Drug Use?

Image courtesy of  Cannabis Culture on Flickr .

Image courtesy of Cannabis Culture on Flickr.

The legalization of marijuana has been one of the most controversial topics among Canadians in the past few years. Upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election in 2015, his appeal to the youth not only stemmed from his attractive charisma but also, his vow to reform the previous Harper government and implement new policies that will appeal to the future generation of Canadians. One of Justin Trudeau’s infamous promises made during his campaign was the legalization of marijuana. Although Trudeau has fallen back on his other promises, as we fast forward three years, right before his potential re-election time, here we have it, the creation of Bill C-45 otherwise known as the Cannabis Act. 

Bill C-45 proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act as well as the Criminal Code to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution and sale. The Liberal government cited that the objectives of the Act are “to prevent young persons from accessing cannabis, to protect public health and public safety by establishing strict product safety and product quality requirements and to deter criminal activity by imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside of the legal framework”. The bill has been relatively successful thus far as it makes its way through Parliament. On November 27th, 2017, Bill C-45 passed through the House of Commons and as of now the Senate is on its second reading. If all goes well, the legalization of cannabis will become law by the end of 2018. But what does this really mean? What will the impact of this legalization be? 

The federal government has left the licensing and overseeing of the distribution and sale of marijuana to the discretion of the provinces. The main goal of this bill is to make it harder for teenagers to buy it, like it is to purchase cigarettes and alcohol under age. The legalization of marijuana will come with strict guidelines and penalties for selling to kids, will create policies to prevent any post-legalization spike in driving while stoned and grant funding for a public education campaign on the dangers of marijuana consumption. These regulations attempt to eliminate the illicit underground pot scene by instead creating a profitable legal market. However, it is suggested that with the government pricing and deterring packaging, along with no advertising will allow illegal sellers to continue to thrive due to their better marketing and cheaper pricing, meaning that this legalization may just make the consumption of marijuana come with no consequences, defeating the law’s main purpose. 

The federal and provincial governments must take the appropriate steps in order to ensure the bill is properly implemented and must ensure that it serves its initial purpose. Ultimately, the governments must figure out a formula regarding how they choose to advertise marijuana in a way that prevents the industry from becoming so commercialized that the promotion of marijuana products accelerates just like it did with the regulation of alcoholic beverages. Canada has the fourth highest binge drinking rate in the developing world. This demonstrates that yes it is harder for those underage to get access to these products, however, it has not minimized our consumption of alcohol as a nation, it has only increased. If the government follows this pattern, it will end up with the same result in the future, just with a different drug.

Despite the bill’s success through parliament so far, this legislation may be faced with some roadblocks from Senate Conservatives who are trying to stop it from passing for these very reasons. Liberal-affiliated senators are in a minority and are outnumbered by Conservatives by almost a third. They are trying to delay the legalisation for Bill C-45’s sister bill, Bill C-46, which introduces impaired driving laws in regards to the consumption of cannabis. The roadblocks faced could push the possibility of legal drug use back even further. 

To conclude, besides the challenges faced and the questions that arise with this breakthrough legislation, the popular public opinion and the pressure from the private sector will, in the end, override the government’s apprehension. Times are changing everyone. Could weed be the new vodka? Tune in this summer (or later) to a local SAQ near you!