Cannabis legalization began to sprout in Canada on April 13, 2017, when the federal Cannabis Act was first introduced in the House of Commons. Bill C-45, which sought to provide legal access to cannabis and to control and regulate its production, distribution, and sale, was a major campaign platform for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the Liberal Party of Canada first planted the seed of legalization in 2012. October 17, 2018, now marks the official budding of a new era for cannabis legalization—Canada becomes only the second nation to do so.1 Whether a cannabis enthusiast or not, there is a special set of obligations you must consider from the perspective of both an employee and citizen—let’s look at some of the ‘do-be’s’ and ‘don’t-be’s’ regarding this iconic date.
“Cannabis” is a generic term which denotes the several psychoactive preparations of the cannabis sativa L. or sativa indica plant. The short-term health effects of cannabis use occur closely together in time and can occur only after a single use, of which have been well-documented.2 These are marked by disturbances in the level of cognition, perception, affect, behaviour, and consciousness—all common characteristics of psychoactive substance use.
The long-term effects of cannabis usage, however, are less clear—some conditions have been found to be reversible whereas numerous studies have linked long-term usage to various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancers. On a more mellow note, the great majority of marijuana users do not report having problems or an impaired ability to perform daily tasks. A recent survey revealed that only 3.6% of marijuana users have run into real-life issues such as a breakup or financial struggles whereas less than 10% of marijuana users link the usage to negative outcomes of routine self-performed tasks.
An Economist (even just for the day)
After legalization, cannabis consumption will be incorporated into a broad range of economic and social statistics including the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts, consumer/producer prices, labour data, and international trade, providing us with a more accurate portrayal of its impact on the economy. It’s not that Statistics Canada, the federally-run data hub, does not try and estimate and include current cannabis consumption in these measures (which occurs in what economists refer to as the underground economy)—it is just that this sort of information is often difficult to gather in a way that meets statisticians’ standards. The Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS), for example, might throw your way: “During the past three months how often did you use marijuana?”. With the entire being-a-federally-run-government-agency thing and all, some might refrain from telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth thus sabotaging the validity of the data. In addition, marijuana and/or cannabis-related questions occupy only a small subset of the major survey itself.
What we can realize in the interim is that the recent boom of investment into the cannabis industry has created numerous jobs within the Canadian economy—a great number of the largest cannabis producers are based in Canada (e.g., Canopy Growth Corp. WEED.TO, Aurora Cannabis Inc ACB-T). Moreover, when the underground economy becomes legitimate, we can assume that taxable income will shift. Although not certain, this can generate a positive feedback loop that drives up the money available for the government to spend on education, new construction projects, health care, etc., which then further increases production and income and so forth, creating a virtuous spiral for the economy.
On December 12, 2017, the Government of Ontario passed legislation outlining the rules for usage, purchase, possession, and cultivation of cannabis in Ontario. Similar to alcohol and tobacco, you must be 19 years of age or older to purchase, grow, and possess recreational cannabis which will only be available through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). When first legalized, the OCS website will be the only legal option to purchase recreational cannabis although the tentative date of April 1, 2019, has been set for the introduction of a private retail model which would include brick and mortar locations. As for quantities, you’ll be able to purchase up to 30 grams at one time (for personal use) and grow up to four plants per residence, with the OCS offering a selection of seeds for growing. To this end, just because something becomes legal, whether previously illegal or otherwise, it does not give us license to abuse it (everything in moderation my friends). Be sure to regularly visit both the Government of Ontario and the OCS website for major updates that will occur within the next year or so.
A sneak peek of the official Ontario Cannabis Store website, where weed will be sold starting next Wednesday. https://t.co/XM1N0yluQv
— 680 NEWS Toronto (@680NEWS) October 11, 2018
Put bluntly, on the flip side of responsibility is boneheadedness. It is seemingly always only a select few from the bunch that ruins it for the rest of the group. Familiarize yourself with the restrictions of cannabis usage and recognize the potential for misuse. Remember to take the same precautions as you would with alcohol when driving a vehicle or operating machinery or heavy equipment. The exact same penalties apply here to recreational cannabis as they would for any other drug that impairs judgement, reaction time, coordination, etc. They can range anywhere from a 3-day license suspension, to the installation of a required ignition interlock device on your vehicle, to imprisonment. This is especially concerning to both young and novice drivers as the province enforces a zero-tolerance policy. Data indicates that over 33% of minors admitted to trying marijuana, raising flags for parental oversight. The Province of Ontario has also enacted a zero-tolerance policy for commercial drivers as well. In general, remember that the consumption of recreational cannabis in the workplace is illegal and subject to the Occupational Health and Safety Act as enforced by the Ministry of Labour.
As it stands, judging active drug users based on physical characteristics alone can be deceitful and even offensive. Statistics do tell us that gender plays a slight role in marijuana experimentation and that the great majority of this occurs between the ages of 14 and 23 (go figure!) but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.3 Yes, of course, rely on your intuitions (and your sense of smell) but also be sure not to overemphasize or embellish what may stem from fundamental cognitive biases. To combat this, reframe and depersonalize any prospective judgements you might have.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
In theory, the mere label shift from whether a substance’s use is ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ does not change anything. In the modern economy, however, this shift disrupts cultural, social, and economic boundaries. Consequently, legalization may result in either negative or positive outcomes, depending on how the legal and regulatory framework is designed and implemented and the effectiveness of the ensuing adjustments that will occur over time. Looking forward, be sure to both know your roll as an employee and citizen and be in touch with the realm of all your senses—including common sense.
1 This stands outside of medical legalization such that ‘partial’ legalization is in effect. Uruguay was the first country to legalize all forms of cannabis in 2013.
2 Volkow, N. D., et al. 2016. “Effects of Cannabis Use on Human Behavior, Including Cognition, Motivation, and Psychosis: A Review. Clinical Review & Education. 73(3):292–297; World Health Organization. 2016. “The Health and Social Effects of Nonmedical Cannabis Use. WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.
3 Gov. of Canada. 2018. “Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, 2015: Person File.” Statistics Canada.; Rotermann, M. and R. Macdonald. 2017. “Analysis of Trends in the Prevalence of Cannabis Use in Canada, 1985 to 2015.” Statistics Canada.