The government’s new Bill C-45, legalizing marijuana, is going to fail miserably in its primary goal.
A few weeks ago, Anne McLellan, who led the federal government’s task force on legalization, was interviewed by the cannabis-centric website Lift. They asked her if “the goal for the government with the legalization of cannabis is similar to the goals of prohibition, just different approaches to those goals?” She responded, remarkably, “I suppose so.”
The government wants to create the legal market to eliminate the current criminal market, then “prohibit” the future legal market? The proposed legislation reflects and codifies these confused objectives. Sadly, the government is fighting the last war – the one against tobacco.
Canadians want marijuana. That is the overwhelming factor driving the whole affair. A majority of us want to legalize it. Fifteen to 20 per cent of us use marijuana today and most of that is “recreational” use.
Put aside the activist lever of “medical-use marijuana” for a moment. There is a very large group of people in Canada who want to get high. Research shows that they want to do things like: relax and drift off to sleep, get high and watch a movie, get stoned and have sex. And, it’s going to be OK. There is not a public health crisis currently around cannabis and there is virtually no indication that there is going to be one going forward.
In the same interview, McLellan says about the task force: “… we are not in the business of promoting commercialization.” The new legislation reflects this with ambiguous stabs at inhibiting, but not prohibiting, marketing activity. The proposed regulations allow for “informational” or “brand-preference” promotion “by means of a telecommunication,” where “reasonable steps” have been taken to ensure that the “promotion cannot be accessed by a young person.” I think that’s an email or something similar.
However, advertising techniques that are suspected of being unduly influential are specifically prohibited: price, testimonials, characters or animals, positive or negative lifestyle images. So, is an online ad of a sunset with a brand logo that is emailed an adult “allowable”? Who knows? We will find out.