As you probably heard from the numerous articles and retrospectives dominating the national media last week, Oct. 17 marked the one-year anniversary of the legalization of cannabis.
Looking back on it now, it seems almost amusing to think how many people feared that legalization would bring about the downfall of law-abiding society.
Oh, the predictions were certainly dire. Some believed that we’d see a spike in lethal car accidents as a result of youth smoking pot and getting behind the wheel.
Others thought that we’d see an uptick in children being rushed to the hospital after accidentally consuming cannabis, along with dogs mistaking a funny-smelling brownie for a tasty treat.
None of that has happened, in as much as we can tell. Life has gone on pretty well as normal; crystal meth and opioids are still the source of far more problems than legal cannabis.
With that in mind, let’s not be too congratulatory towards Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, who have largely bungled the commercial side of legalization.
First, there were shortages experienced across the country, as Canadians were eager to try the novelty of government-grown weed. Then came the complaints about the actual quality of the product and continued shortages in supply, which led many users to go back to their dealers.
Legalization has utterly failed to destroy the black market in the way the government forecasted: it’s estimated that for every $1 spent on legal cannabis, $2 is spent on the illegal products. Illegal pot is stronger than ever.
And many of those who jumped into the industry sensing an opportunity have instead found themselves struggling financially. Some of that is due to poor quality, and some of that is due to high taxes placed on the product sold to retailers.
Perhaps that will change with the legalization of cannabis edibles, which are slated to become commercially available in December. But it’s more likely that the only money to be made in cannabis is in growing the medicinal product, as is the plan of Royal Canadian Cannabis with their Barrhead facility.
On the whole, legalization was the right choice. It was not fair to punish Canadians for using a drug that is really no more harmful than hard liquor.
And let’s acknowledge that the entire world is drifting towards legalization. Canada is now one of four countries that has legalized recreational cannabis, and Mexico is set to become the fifth. Many other countries and states have pursued decriminalization.
But far too many mistakes were made by the federal government in its hasty, headlong rush to legalize cannabis. It’s a shame that it wasn’t better-handled.