Pot Power Play: 2016 Paved The Way For Legal Weed in Canada, The Real Test Will Come in 2017

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Marijuana advocates were jubilant last November in the days after Justin Trudeau became prime minister with a promise to “legalize, regulate and restrict” the drug. “We’re dancing in the streets,” said Don Briere, one of Canada’s most notorious marijuana entrepreneurs, at the time.

But the road toward legalization hasn’t been smooth. And as the country gears up for the next crucial juncture — legislation that will legalize recreational marijuana expected this spring — momentous changes that have already occurred this year provide clues for what’s to come, and who will be left out.

New weed order

In the first week of 2016, the Liberals tapped Toronto’s former chief of police, Bill Blair, to lead the government’s marijuana legalization file. Blair, who retired in 2015 and successfully ran for federal office, was known for opposing any easing of Canada’s drug laws and was vilified for his role in the mass arrest of protesters during the 2010 G20 summit.

While the Conservatives praised the appointment, marijuana advocates were shaken.

“I worry that the police chief will have a prohibition-based bias,” long-time cannabis activist Jodie Emery told VICE News following the announcement. “I hope [he] will bear in mind that many people have paid with their lives and their time, and have been arrested and gone to prison.”

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