Canada’s provinces, municipalities and Canadians themselves are only now really starting to come to grips with the pending legalization of marijuana, a forum heard Monday.
Former justice minister Anne McLellan, who headed a national task force on the issue, said while a majority of people are in favour of legal pot, most don’t understand what that means. As a result, she said, people are now posing tough questions about what a legalized-cannabis world will look like.
“People are just starting to understand psychologically what this means — the transformation — moving from what has heretofore been a prohibited substance to legalization and regulation,” McLellan said.
The last time something similar occurred was in the 1920s and 1930s when Prohibition ended, she said, so we don’t have a lot of current experience to lean on.
What no one should be surprised about, McLellan said, is that most of the rules around the cultivation, sale and possession of pot and pot products will come by way of regulations that have still to be determined. Some people have lost sight of the fact that Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised regulation and restricted access along with legalization, she said.
Speaking to the Toronto forum organized by Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, McLellan, whose task force reported to the government in December, identified several key issues that have yet to be worked out.
Foremost among them, she said, will be the legal age for using cannabis — the minimum 18 as proposed by the federal government or older.
McLellan said the task force considered 18 to be a reasonable minimum given that it is seen as “social marker of adulthood” — the age at which teens can join the military without parental permission or vote and it would have been “patronizing” under the circumstances to set the limit higher.
At the same time, the legal age limit will be up to provinces to decide, she said, with the expectation that it will align with their rules on alcohol or tobacco use.