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The Legalization of Marijuana in Canada

Introduction

The legalization of marijuana has been a controversial subject in Canada. In 2018, Canada became “the first industrialized nation to legalize marijuana,” which resulted in positive and negative consequences (Austen, 2021, para. 10). However, marijuana legalization’s opponents contend that marijuana causes more harm than good. For instance, Hall and Lynskey (2020) argue that legalization will substantially increase marijuana consumption, posing significant adverse effects, especially among adolescents and young adults. Although some people believe that the legalization of cannabis is a mistake, practice shows that it improves Canada’s economy, controls sales, and addresses the criminal justice system inequalities.

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Discussion

The legalization of marijuana has strengthened Canada’s economy by increasing profits and reducing expenses. Marijuana taxation, licensing, and the industry will generate revenues for the Canadian government, boosting the economy. Currently, the cannabis market is worth $7 billion, and this figure is expected to grow up to $22 billion by 2025 (Tia, 2021, para. 5). The Canadian government imposes a 10% tax on all marijuana sales, contributing at least $700 million to government revenues every year (Tia, 2021, para. 7). According to Tia (2021), “it is clear that marijuana and Canada make a fine combination with massive growth potential” (para. 7). Tia (2021) further claims that the opportunity to be legitimate will push many small businesses or illicit sellers to seek new warehouses and distribution centers to facilitate their businesses, promoting the local real estate industry. Real estate prices, rents, and investments directly contribute to a country’s Gross Domestic Product; thus, it is reasonable to argue that the marijuana business will boost the economy by promoting the real estate industry. While Canada is a great travel destination, marijuana legalization can increase the country’s tourism popularity. “Marijuana tourism” is a concept used to describe visits to a state or country to consume marijuana products (Tia, 2021). The underlying assumption behind this notion is that marijuana tourism is driven by the normalization of marijuana use in the host country.

According to Tia (2021), legalizing marijuana will attract more tourists to the nation, boosting the tourism industry. For example, in Colorado, approximately 50% of marijuana sales were from out-of-state visitors (“Report of the CARICOM,” 2018). Similarly, Denver received 15.4 million more tourists in the first year after legalizing marijuana (“Report of the CARICOM,” 2018). The Caribbean Community Secretariat report further reveals that the Denver tourists spent on cannabis tours, cannabis-infused foods, and cannabis-friendly accommodations, resulting in an additional $4.6 tourism revenues that year (“Report of the CARICOM,” 2018). This report implies that legalizing marijuana will improve tourist activities in Canada, which, in turn, will increase revenues for the country. Finally, marijuana generates revenues by reducing expenses in terms of criminal justice budgetary savings. According to Hajizadeh (2016), approximately 67% of all reported drug offenses in 2013 were marijuana-related (p. 453). An increase in crime-related activities increases government spending as resources are spent for correctional, judicial, prosecutorial, and police spending. Hajizadeh (2016) reports that the current legal framework would save the Canadian government approximately $500 million to $1 billion annually (p. 454). The budget assigned to enforce specific drug enforcement laws will be released, leading to crucial cost savings. Legalizing marijuana will strengthen the Canadian economy by generating tax revenues, revitalize local tourism, and allow budgetary savings in the criminal justice system.

By legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the Canadian government also gains control of marijuana sales in several ways. First, marijuana legitimization helps reduce the size of the black market, consequently minimizing organized crimes and making streets safe for citizens. The criminalization of marijuana, coupled with the high demand for the substance, has resulted in the black market’s expansion (Hajizadeh, 2016). Because production and distribution are illegal, the drug can only be found in the black/illicit markets. Criminalization also empowers unlawful and dubious drug dealers to be the only source or suppliers of the product. Additionally, since selling the product is prohibited, most sellers operate without licenses, meaning that accountability in the market is almost inexistent. However, the Canadian government has taken control of the distribution and selling of the product by legalizing it (Hajizadeh, 2016). Marijuana legalization has encouraged people to acquire licenses and operate in the free market to increase their sales. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, 67% of all drug-related activities in Canada stem from marijuana use (Hajizadeh, 2016). However, through governmental interventions, including marijuana legalization, this incidence can be countered.

Hajizadeh (2016) supports this view by arguing that “legalization could reduce the flourishing black market for the drug, which is the cause for a large amount of illegal activity in Canada, as indicated by the rate of police-reported marijuana offenses” (p. 454). Therefore, the government’s extensive industrial control can help minimize illegal activities. Secondly, the government ensures that the marijuana sold in the market does not contain toxins and remains unadulterated with other toxins (Austen, 2021, para. 48). The government uses the same regulatory approach for alcohol and tobacco to issue licenses for cannabis. That is, it requires all operators to satisfy specific regulatory requirements before issuing out their licenses. For example, the Federal Cannabis Act requires all license holders to adhere to the law’s safety and security standards. This way, it can supervise and control tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)content and contaminants – such as heavy metals, fungi, pesticides. THC is a psychoactive chemical that causes the “high” symptoms and other psychological effects of smoking marijuana. Section six of the Cannabis Act specifies the maximum allowable amount of THC to minimize the risks of overconsumption. The quantity of THC intended for ingestion or rectal or nasal use should not exceed 10mg (“Guide on Composition Requirements,” 2019). For cannabis products intended for inhalation, their net weight should not exceed 1g (“Guide on Composition Requirements,” 2019).

By specifying the maximum amount of THC in marijuana products, the government ensures that the cannabis sold in the market is free of toxins and other contaminants. Thirdly, the illicit sale of marijuana to minors will be eliminated, which is critical in keeping them safe and healthy. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that 28% of Canadian children between eleven and fifteen years have used marijuana illegally (Hajizadeh, 2016, p. 454). UNICEF also reveals that, among all developed countries, Canadian children and teens are the highest users of illicit marijuana (Hajizadeh, 2016). Loosely translated, these statistics indicate that a significant number of children and young adults in Canada use illicit marijuana. However, the Canadian government has reduced children’s contact with the black market by cutting off all illegal access points, protecting children from drug dealers. Additionally, provincial cannabis laws also outline offenses and penalties for selling or exposing minors to marijuana. For example, the Cannabis Control Act of Newfoundland and Labrador province restricts purchase, consumption, possession, and cultivation to individuals older than 19 years. It also prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public spaces and places frequented by children. The outlined fines and penalties range from $200-$100,000, depending on the severity of the offense (“Guide on Composition Requirements,” 2019). Marijuana legalization will reduce the black market’s size and protect children by removing illegal access points

Marijuana legalization is also crucial in eliminating the inequalities of the justice system and providing convicts an opportunity to a new life. The initial criminalization of marijuana was racially motivated as users of color were perceived to threaten public safety, prompting the national and local governments to outlaw its use. Over the years, the criminal justice system has been characterized by discriminatory law enforcement practices. Austen (2021) reveals that 34% of the black people in Toronto were charged with marijuana possession between 2013 and 2014 (para. 19). These statistics support the notion that cannabis criminalization disproportionately affects minority groups. Thus, it is reasonable to argue that these groups will benefit the most from the legalization. Making marijuana possession legal reduces the likelihood of a car being stopped and searched, reducing arrests of groups most affected by such practices. Hence, it is reasonable to argue that decriminalization will reduce racially discriminative enforcement practices.

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This notion is supported by Hall and Lynskey’s (2020) study findings, which demonstrated that cannabis legalization eliminates the discriminative enforcement of penalties among minority groups. For example, there was a decline in the number of traffic stops in Washington and Colorado after the legalization. In Washington, the search rate among black drivers fell by 34%, while in Colorado, it reduced by more than half between 2011 and 2015 (“Why legalizing marijuana is the SMART choice,” 2017). Additionally, marijuana arrests were reduced by almost 50% after legalization (“Why legalizing marijuana is the SMART choice,” 2017). This data reinforces the understanding that legalization will reduce discriminatory law enforcement practices by reducing the interaction between law enforcement officials and civilians. Finally, special programs such as pardons provide convicts with a new opportunity to start a new life (Austen, 2021). When the law legalizes marijuana, individuals who were previously convicted can be incarcerated, getting a second chance to transform their lives.

Despite the benefits mentioned above, some Canadians still believe that marijuana legalization undermines national and individual safety, wellness, and health. According to a study conducted by Van Esch et al. (2020), 42% of Canadians worry that cannabis retailers threaten the safety of their home values (para. 5). Another study conducted by Anguelov (2020) reports that legalization might increase consumption among children and teenagers (high-risk individuals. The opponents posit that marijuana will be readily available in the market where high-risk individuals can easily access it, increasing its consumption. Consequently, juvenile arrests and crime rates might increase due to the significant surge in the product’s use (Bogart, 2020). In addition, the excessive use of marijuana is associated with imbalanced physical and cognitive development and delayed brain development among youths (Yu et al., 2020). Further opposition stems from the perception that marijuana will cause productivity losses. Like alcohol consumers, users may miss work or cause accidents due to intoxication, causing economic and social damage.

However, findings from numerous primary studies, including Hall and Lynskey’s (2020) research, demonstrate that marijuana’s health effects are less harmful than opioids, alcohol, and tobacco. Additionally, Yu et al. (2020) reviewed thirteen studies that examined the impact of marijuana laws on marijuana use. Out of the twelve studies, eight studies showed no relationship between increased consumption and the legalization laws (Yu et al., 2020). Two studies showed a mixed effect, and the other two reported a risk effect between the marijuana laws and increased use (Yu et al., 2020). Furthermore, a recent Drug Policy Alliance report (DPA) revealed that no significant correlation exists between marijuana legalization and consumption among young people (“Why legalizing marijuana is the SMART choice,” 2017). Given the level of evidence supporting the notion that marijuana legalization does not increase consumption, it is inaccurate to characterize marijuana legalization as a strategy for increasing the drug or substance’s access to young people. The DPA report further indicated that “roads are no less safe in states post-legalization, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable … after legalization” (“Why legalizing marijuana is the SMART choice,” 2017, p. 8). This evidence implies that marijuana legalization will not cause any additional road accidents than alcohol and other intoxicating drugs have caused. Finally, because marijuana is less harmful than opioids, alcohol, and tobacco, it is unreasonable to reject it on health grounds.

Conclusion

Legalizing marijuana improves the Canadian economy, allows the government to control marijuana sales, and increases the criminal justice system’s inequalities. It strengthens the economy by generating tax revenues from sales, revitalizing local tourism, and freeing up resources committed to enforcing marijuana-related laws. The government gains control of the industry by issuing licenses, reducing the black market’s size, and closing all illegal access points, promoting. It further minimizes inequalities in the criminal justice system by eliminating the discriminative enforcement of penalties among minority groups. Despite its health effects and safety concerns, this study demonstrates that marijuana legalization results in more benefits than harm. The government should educate the public on adverse effects to reduce marijuana-related crimes.

References

Anguelov, N. (2020). The unintended consequences of marijuana decriminalization. The Conversation. Web.

Austen, I. (2021). 2 years after legalizing cannabis, has Canada kept its promises? The New York Times. Web.

Bogart, B. (2020). The verdict: Canada’s legalization of cannabis is a success. The Conversation. Web.

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Guide on composition requirements for cannabis products: Requirements under the Cannabis Act and the cannabis regulations. (2019). Government of Canada. Web.

Hajizadeh, M. (2016). Legalizing and regulating marijuana in Canada: Review of potential economic, social, and health impacts. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 5(8), 453–456. Web.

Hall, W., & Lynskey, M. (2020). Assessing the public health impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis use: The US experience. World Psychiatry, 19(2), 179–186. Web.

Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana 2018: Waiting to exhale –safeguarding our future through responsible socio-legal policy on marijuana (2018). Caribbean Community Secretariat. Web.

Tia, M. (2021). Marijuana and its economic value in Canada. Ottawa Life Magazine. Web.

van Esch, P., O’Shea, M., & Duffy, S. (2020). Undecided on the cannabis referendum: 10 pros and cons of legalising the drug. The Conversation. Web.

Why legalizing marijuana is the SMART choice: The benefits of ending marijuana prohibition. (2017). Drug Policy Alliance. Web.

Yu, B., Chen, X., Chen, X., & Yan, H. (2020). Marijuana legalization and historical trends in marijuana use among US residents aged 12–25: Results from the 1979–2016 national survey on drug use and health. BMC Public Health, 20, 1–10. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 17). The Legalization of Marijuana in Canada. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-legalization-of-marijuana-in-canada/

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