By: Manisha Krishnan
Although it’s a step in the right direction, key players say the federal bill leaves much to be desired.
It’s been a long road, but recreational weed is finally, without a shadow of a doubt, going to be legal in Canada.
The Canadian senate passed the Cannabis Act—Bill C-45—Tuesday night with a vote of 52-29, with two abstentions. The bill now needs Royal Assent, which could take place today. Canadians will be able to buy weed legally on October 17.
The bill is historic, putting an end to 95 years of prohibition and making Canada the second nation in the world and the first G7 country to fully regulate and sell recreational cannabis.
Lloyd, a prominent Toronto cannabis lawyer who frequently represents dispensary employees busted in raids, said he’s thrilled that the bill finally passed.
“After 90 years of prohibition the government has finally admitted that it lost its war against the cannabis community. We won,” he said.
But he’s also concerned about those who are still facing charges or who may be charged before the new law comes into effect.
“You don’t want to be the last person killed or maimed before the war officially ends,” he said. “Every Canadian saddled with a record because of cannabis must be pardoned and they are owed an apology.”
Floyd’s dispensary is currently the only legal pot shop in Ontario, following an Ontario court ruling that said he could sell cannabis only to licensed medical patients. However, Floyd said he wants to see Ontario open up the cannabis retail sector to private businesses—it’s the reason he voted for Doug Ford to be premier. Under Kathleen Wynne’s plan, weed dispensaries in the province were to be controlled by an LCBO monopoly, with 40 shops set to open later this year.
“The private model needs a chance to compete with the government model,” Floyd told VICE. “This is an opportunity to create such a great life for all the young entrepreneurs, the employees, and the patients will be taken care of—it’s win-win.”
Floyd said he pays his managers $35 an hour and his budtenders $20-$25 an hour. He said cities and the province stand to make a lot of money off high licensing fees.
“There’s no other industry that can take a dilapidated property and overnight turn it into a profitable business and we’re not even getting a chance to do that.”
Chuck Rifici, founder Nesta (a private equity firm that invests in weed companies), on the impaired driving bill:
Rifici told VICE he hopes Bill C-46, the government’s law to tackle weed-impaired driving, gets scrapped entirely. The bill would allow for cops to subject Canadian drivers to random drug tests, despite the fact that drug tests cannot detect impairment.
“I think it’s a red herring because impaired driving is already illegal in Canada,” Rifici told VICE. He said he takes particular issue with the government’s proposed per se limits, measured in nanograms of THC per millimetre of blood (ng). Under C46, there would be fines for having a per se limit of between 2 and 5 ng and harsher punishments for those with a per se limit above 5 ng.
“It immediately is going to criminalize anyone who is a medical patient who typically use daily” as well as recreational users who consume high amounts of weed, Rifici said. “You can use a lot of cannabis on Friday and still test positive on a Monday.”
He said he has already committed $25,000 towards launching a legal challenge against the bill, but he prefers it gets killed instead.
Jodie Emery, activist, on pardons:
A pot activist for the last 15 years, Emery told VICE she doesn’t consider the passing of C-45 to be the end of prohibition because the government is implementing new strict laws, including up to 14 years in jail for selling weed illegally.
“The government is completely ignoring the civil liberties reasons for legalization. They’re focusing only on making money and enforcing laws and the victims of prohibition are still being victimized today and as far as we can see into the future,” she told VICE.
Emery and her husband Marc pleaded guilty to a number of trafficking-related offences in December, after their Cannabis Culture dispensaries were raided. They were each fined $195,000 and two years of probation, and are not banned from participating in illegal weed dispensaries.
“I would be still celebrating if I wasn’t a criminal and if everyone else wasn’t a criminal, but we’re still demonized every day,” she said. “It’s hard to see so many people celebrating because they’re in line to make money.”
Sarah Gillies, owner The Baker’s Shop, on edibles:
Gillies told VICE she believes the government’s commitment to regulating edibles within a year is a massive step in the right direction, but she hopes the approach will be evidence-based.
“There was a lot of fear-mongering surrounding edibles over the past year,” she said, noting concerns about accurate dosing and proper usage have all been addressed by the already-booming edibles industry. “We are no longer talking about your run of the mill pot brownie: we have lab testing, advanced infusion techniques, and standardized extracts. Hopefully the government can legislate based on this industry rather than their concerns about the past.”