Canadian Legalization Delayed Until October 17


Marguerite Arnold

July 23rd, 2018

Policy


It’s official and “weed” if not the people have clearly won. The voters have spoken, the government has finally voted, and now the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has been allowed to set a date – even if later than initially promised or hoped.  Legal cannabis sales will begin across Canada just shy of two weeks before Halloween.

In the meantime, the last regulatory transitions for production, distribution, and consumption will be put into place, even if some provinces will be more organized and ready than others.

There are no barriers now to implementation – even the Queen (back in the UK) is expected to give Royal Assent with no issues.

It is, therefore, safe to say, in general, that Canadians across the board are pleased as punch. If not abask in the glow of legislative if not market change that is, indeed, and not just for Canadians, transformational. Not to mention now officially on the calendar.

Legal Questions Still Remain Domestically

It is also not as if Canada has just passed the point of “all she wrote.” With the advent of federal recreational reform, expect a few tweaks if not outright amendments down the road. Why?

First there already have been problems. And those are not all resolved. Plus there are other issues looming beyond just market start itself, which have not only remained unaddressed but are likely to be controversial for some time to come.

Starting with the delay until October in the first place. Rumours have swirled since earlier in the year that the provinces (in particular) did not want to be pushed into a summer start. Trudeau himself challenged the government on deadlines. However the Senate, itself a body of mostly unelected and rather appointed individuals, has now also been forced to move.

As a result, while the actual transition day (much like January 1, 2014 in Colorado) is now set by parliamentary mandate, expect many objections if not actual legal skirmishes along the way.

The first is the driving law Canada is also passing – deemed as the toughest in the world.

The second is what will happen to home grow (which is controversial just about everywhere). Three provinces (Quebec, Manitoba, and Nunavut) will prohibit people from growing at home, even though individuals have the federal right to nurture up to four plants. While the federal government will not challenge such provincial bans, individuals almost certainly will.

And of course, lastly, issues of expungement (having ones record cleared of cannabis-related crimes), is still a vast unknown. So far, the first motion to pardon Canadians convicted of simple possession did not garner the unanimous consent politically that it requires. That too will be on the horizon, presumably after the sun rises on actual legalization.

Will The Commonwealth Now Transition To Cannabis Reform?

Literally on the same day that the Canadian government moved forward on recreational, the impact was also felt in other places.  In the UK the issue also moved forward last week – and in a situation where Canadian reform was never out of the room. After an activist parent dared the British government to strip her son of Canadian supplies for his drug resistant epilepsy (which they did at Heathrow), the resulting hospitalization of her 12 year old finally sparked a move to “re-examine” UK cannabinoid policy at the nose bleed level.

Of all the places in the world where cannabis reform is at least on the table, the UK remains the most regressive and outrageous. One company – GW Pharmaceuticals – has retained the exclusive right to develop cannabinoid based medications domestically – which it not only mostly tests but then sells abroad. In fact, although this is now likely to change this year, up until this point, it was the UK, not Canada, which exported the most legal, medicinal cannabis every year.

In fact, the most remarkable thing about Canadian “legalization” is how closely it seems to be tracking GW Pharma’s “first” cannabis drug to be introduced into a U.S. (not Canadian) market where NO federal medical reform has occurred. Epidiolex is made for child epilepsy – even though it still is not effective for everyone. This is the reason the situation in the UK right now is not only so untenable, but embarrassing – and further, very threatening indeed to the entire discussion of “pharmaceutical” vs. literally “whole plant” medication when it comes to cannabis.

It is also increasingly clear to those who are fighting for medical access everywhere that the entire discussion of “reform” has been (again) cynically and politically delayed – and continues to be – for the benefit of drug company profits over basic (and multi-symptom) patient access. Worse, these are also, in the specific case of Epidiolex, for man-made pharmaceuticals that do not, (yet or ever), work as well as the raw if barely processed plant. And of course, are much, much, more expensive than the “real” thing. This is not only “Sativex” all over again (GW’s sativa-based, THC mouth spray), but Marinol and Cesamet (the synthetic versions of cannabinoids that are marketed for cancer pain, AIDs and Parkinson’s).

How Fares Germany?

Canadian recreational reform will also have an impact on Canada’s biggest coups to date – an almost virtual lockhold on the global medical trade which now stretches from Europe to Australia. In fact, in an era of threats and bullying tactics to keep both Uruguay and Israel from entering the increasingly valuable world of whole-plant ex-im, Canada is the only country which has managed to establish such trade. In turn, this has made the cannabis companies in Canada now serving both the recreational market at home and the medical market everywhere else literally multibillion, globe-straddling unicorns in less than four years.

However,there is, even now, a limit on how much can be grown and shipped internationally that depends on both domestic supply as much as international demand. Will Canadian companies be able to “serve two masters”?

That question, at least for the next six months is one that is likely to be more shaped by continuing downward and deliberate pressure to keep patient numbers low in Germany than any massive and sudden spurt in domestic production (although the biggest firms are also engaging in that too).

In sum, however, the announcement that Canada will now, in the name of eradicating the black market, move into full and final legalization in mid fall is a victory. For consumers. For patients. And of course, for a now far more than nascent and most certainly, international industry. No matter how many questions, controversies and battles still remain.

About Marguerite Arnold



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