Many healthcare professionals and politicians are still uncertain of Canada’s direction with cannabis
If there is one aspect surrounding the legalization of cannabis, it’s the vague nature of how it will emerge—and more importantly, how it will be sustained. Ever since it was announced last year that legalization was on the horizon, numerous policy makers, professionals, and businesses have been stumbling over one another in an attempt to figure out as much as they can, as fast as they can.
However, at this time the truth is that even with all of the surrounding excitement, there really isn’t as much information available as we would expect.
Dr. Lynda Balneaves, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba and member of the Canadian Nursing Association recently hosted a seminar here in Edmonton, in hopes to clear the haze of speculation. Balneaves recently appeared as a guest speaker at the National Senate Committee on Health where she spoke specifically about matters pertaining to cannabis, and its impacts on both medical and non-medical professionals as well as students. With this insight, she brought back some crucial information on policy, and more intriguingly, the attitudes that some hold up on Parliament Hill.
“There’s a lot of people up there who are reacting to social discourse and old world propaganda, there are some who’s mindsets aren’t impacted by current evidence,” Balneaves says.
Not to imply that all who operate in our national government are planning on being bureaucratic buzz-kills, but it does say something about our nation when certain elected officials opinions harken back to the days of reefer madness. Even though there are some in the government who aren’t completely sold, we can’t immediately assume that they are blindly out to extinguish the nation’s long-awaited smoke session, like any controlled substance there are uncertain prospects surrounding it.
Balneaves aims to calm the uncertainty of some, as she is a major supporter of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and has dedicated much of her career to researching the plant and championing its benefits as well as supporting caution with its use. However, the iris through which our government is looking at legalization is not through the scope of medicinal impact, but with more of a focus on the recreational.
“Policy makers and licensed producers don’t really see a necessary distinction between medical and non-medical use,” Balneaves says. “We have major associations saying, ‘Why have two systems, why not just one?’”
So when there was the basic list of regulations surrounding legalization released several weeks ago, many were thrilled with the results and focus on recreational aspects. Even though Bill C-45 (The Cannabis Act) is a federal piece of legislation pertaining to the legalization of cannabis in 2018, its distribution will fall to the provincial governments.
There are some basic factors for Albertans already in place, such as how upon legalization cannabis will be regulated by the AGLC—you must be over 18 years of age to purchase cannabis and can only purchase or have on your person 30 grams of cannabis or cannabis extract.
Edibles will not be part of legalization; this arrangement was implemented with the intent of keeping cannabis products out of the hands of youths, something that the federal government has strict and swift policy against.
Those caught selling or sharing cannabis to anyone under the age of 18 will be fined amounts into the tens of thousands. It’s a sane sentiment as nobody wants the legalization of cannabis to correlate with youth consumption. However, due to the speed in which legalization is moving many are concerned with how these laws will impact the nation.
Balneaves, even when addressing the Senate Committee on Health, brought up that in places like high schools many 18-year-olds intermingle with those still considered youths, resulting in her urging for the government to overview its policy.
“We were really addressing the senate committee to address their perspective on justice … to be honest it kind of fell on deaf ears and the charges are remaining in current legislation,” she says.
If there is anything to be gathered from how the nation’s future with cannabis is unfolding it is that they are numerous policies in place for efficient distribution and focus on the safety of the citizens. However, even though these are in place no one will know of their efficiency until we actually see legalization in action, and even then there are rumours of legalization being pushed back to this Autumn. Like any great social or political change it’ll be up to the electorate to dictate what direction it goes in, so upon legalization it’ll be up to the citizens of Canada to spark up, inhale and pay attention—which, all things considered, may be easier said than done.