Article by Hamilton Spectator
There’s a compelling case to be made that ordinary Canadians have handled the historic legalization of cannabis far better than either the Ontario or federal governments.
Cheers to the people and a summer raspberry to the politicians.
Consider that in the nine months since the prohibition of recreational pot ended, drug-impaired driving did not spike as many feared, while Statistics Canada says the number of Canadians who reported buying black market cannabis plunged by 13 per cent.
And we’ve witnessed this even as the number of Canadians who reported trying cannabis nearly doubled — to 646,000 people in the first three months of 2019, up from 327,000 in the same period in 2018.
In sharp contrast, however, senior levels of government have not lived up to their part of the bargain to make legalization work smoothly.
Despite its denials, Ottawa has failed to ensure the supply of legal weed comes close to meeting consumer demand. As for the Ontario government, it’s botched the roll-out of retail stores.
Both shortcomings explain why 38 per cent of Canadians who buy pot continue to turn to the still-thriving black market. And wasn’t the eradication of that criminal market one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main reasons for legalization in the first place?
To be fair, Queen’s Park announced this week it will license 50 new cannabis retail stores starting in October, which will give people more legal options for buying pot. That’s a step in the right direction.
And to cut both the Ontario and federal governments a little slack, the end of prohibition was a big, complicated, multi-faceted deal. Canada is a global pioneer in legalizing this drug nationwide. Whoever blazes a new trail is bound to stumble into a few holes.
But considering the federal Liberals won the 2015 general election with the promise to legalize pot, they should be criticized for the problems persisting nearly four years later.
The Liberals charged ahead with legalizing recreational cannabis last October knowing full well there would be insufficient amounts of the legal product. The supply problem has been linked, in part, to the tough regulations imposed by the federal department, Health Canada, on the 132 legal Canadian producers.
To be sure, it’s essential that the safety of legal cannabis is beyond reproach. Even so, many producers are complaining Health Canada drags its feet in approving new licences. Hence the supply headaches that will likely continue for years. Hence the healthy black market that services underage teens while denying the federal and provincial governments tax revenue they’re owed.
For their part, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are more than happy to blame the lack of supply for the paucity of legal retail outlets in the province. They argue they can’t open the floodgates to consumers by hastily opening more retail outlets as long as the supply shortages continue.