Canada Legalizes Recreational Marijuana – What You Need To Know Today

US-Canada Border Conflicts, Police Consumption, Organized Crime and More: An Update On What To Expect By October 17 In Canada

canada legalizes recreational marijuana

With just a few hours to go until October 17, a historic moment in legalization, all eyes are on Canada. There’s a lot of pressure on the government to iron out any wrinkles in their recreational cannabis laws as they get ready to legalize recreational use cannabis throughout the country, and many changes have happened over the last few weeks leading up to this date.

Here’s what we can expect so far:

US Customs Loosens Border Restrictions for Canadian Cannabis Workers

One of the biggest issues surrounding Canadian adult-use legalization the past few months was the hot news that anyone working in the local cannabis industry could face being banned from entering the United States for life, for the simple reason that the drug is still a federally illegal substance in the US. The news sent shockwaves to members of the cannabis industry both big and small, instilling fear and uncertainty even among those who don’t touch the plant, such as investors.

But last week, the US Customs and Border Protection website updated its policy, stating that Canadian residents working in the cannabis industry will now be able to enter the country for personal travel. 

The agency’s website previous stated that, “As marijuana continues to be a controlled substance under United States law, working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect admissibility to the U.S.” But to clarify the confusion, it now says that for individuals traveling for personal purposes will be “generally” granted entry into the United States.

“A Canadian citizen working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the US for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the US, however, if a traveler is found to be coming to the US for a reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible,” says the statement.

But the new policy doesn’t clear the smoke whether Canadians may be denied entry for admitting to cannabis consumption when questioned at the border.

According to CBC News, Border Security Minister Bill Blair disclosed last month that while “possession of cannabis is legal in some US states, cannabis remains illegal under US federal law,” and he advised Canadians to respect the laws of the US.

Meanwhile, Canadians will be allowed to travel domestic with a limited amount of cannabis in their check-in or carry-on luggage.

Prime Minister Trudeau Says Quebec’s Plan Will Invite Organized Crime

While Canada is leaving it up to provinces and territories to establish their own framework when it comes to managing adult-use cannabis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau feels that Quebec’s plan to increase the legal age for smoking cannabis up to 21 may make it easy for the black market to thrive.

Trudeau told reporters on October 13 that this may backfire on the main objectives that the government had in mind to legalize recreational cannabis use in the first place: shooting down organized crime. He added that he hopes to dialogue with Francois Legault on the matter, Quebec’s main premier designate. According to Canadian federal law, the minimum age to consume cannabis is 18 but other provinces can change this as they deem necessary but most will be following the status quo or at most, raising the legal age to 19 except in the case of Quebec. While Trudeau believes 18 as the legal age is apt, Legault promised to increase this to 21.

Many Of Canada’s Cops Won’t Be Able To Partake In Pot – And They Aren’t Happy

Some of Canada’s police forces will be implementing strict regulations that either limit or prohibit cannabis use for cops, even when they’re off duty.

According to Tom Stamatakis, the Canadian Police Association’s president, certain police forces are regulating cannabis in a different way compared to other legal substances including prescription drugs and alcohol. “Effectively what they’re saying is, we don’t trust police officers to make the right decision when it comes to reporting for work fit for duty,” he told an interview. “And I just find that to be an offensive approach.”

The Toronto police and the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) are both considering a law that would ban cannabis consumption by all its members within 28 days of their shift, although the Calgary police service is eyeing an even stricter policy which would forbid most officers from using cannabis even during off-hours after October 17.

“You want to create policies that are relevant and effective and that apply to the vast majority of your members, not policies that are designed to cater to the exception rather than the rule,” Stamatakis says.

On the other hand, Vancouver and Ottawa cops will have more flexible policies, allowing for cannabis consumption for cops off-duty as long as they show up fit for work.

The Toronto Police Association, which represents police officers in the biggest city in Canada, says that the municipal police service has already drafted a policy but they are still yet to see it. “We are aware the draft policy may contain a 28-day waiting period before a member can report for duty after consuming cannabis,” says Mike McCormack, the association’s president. “Once the TPA receives an official version of the policy dealing with this topic we will perform a legal analysis of its content for compliance with our collective agreements, legislation, human rights, case law, etc. and make a decision about any further action we may take at that point in time.”

The government says that impairment, whether caused by cannabis or other legal or illegal substances, is prohibited in the workplace. 

Just a few days ago, researchers from the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University came up with feedback on how long police officers need to abstain from pot before going to work, although their opinions are divided, reports CBC News.

According to James MacKillop, co-director of the centre, it will depend largely on how much is consumed and the frequency. “So if you smoke today, within a few days it will be entirely out of your system because a single instance may be longer-lasting than alcohol but it still nonetheless will be metabolized and will be excreted,” he says.

“If a person is a regular, frequent user, then that window gets much longer because cannabis is what’s called lipophilic, which means it’s absorbed into the body’s fat cells and then it leaches back out from the fat tissue into the bloodstream. And that’s why it’s also detectable in urine,” MacKillop says. “So if a person’s a heavy user, it may indeed be detectable for up to a month.” He points to studies that prove cannabis has lingering effects, one of which may be impaired cognitive function in active users, which returned to normal following abstinence.

“It’s not clear that any of those chronic effects on cognition persist after a person stops, but a 28-day washout period would be expected to eliminate virtually all of the cognitive consequences,” he adds.

But according to Rielle Capler, a cannabis policy researcher at the BC Centre on Substance Abuse, a long period of abstinence before returning to work is unreasonable when factoring in THC and metabolites in cannabis, and how it can affect the brain. “While the metabolites might still be present in the urine or blood that long, there is no connection to actual impairment,” she says. “Impairment with cannabis depends on the mode of use, how much you use and your tolerance,” Capler says. “If you’re inhaling it, the peak impairment is about one to two hours and the impairment dissipates after three to four hours,” she explains.

“If you’re ingesting it, then you might start to feel impairment after an hour or two. It might peak at three or four hours, and be in your system for six to eight hours in terms of it having an effect,” Capler says.

“If you wanted to be super cautious and conservative, you could say no to consumption eight hours before work.”

Implementation Still The Biggest Hurdle

Blair disclosed the latest insights on adopting recreational use cannabis during the CTV Question Period. When asked about the biggest current challenge for the federal government, he says that: “It’s a process of implementation.”

For the last two and a half years, the Canadian federal government has been working on implementing what Blair calls a “very significant regulatory change,” but he added that most of the responsibilities will fall in the shoulders of territories, provinces, and their police forces.

Pardons Will Be Granted Eventually

Blair added that when cannabis becomes legal for recreational use, the government will then work on how to deal with past cannabis convictions. “That’s the appropriate time to deal with those records and we intend to deal with them in an appropriate way,” he says, but he didn’t specify how long this would take.

Government Working On Edibles Regulations

When asked about edibles regulations, Blair says that the government has been working on making edible sales legal. The current law only allows citizens to make their own edibles at home, but those sold in stores or cannabis-infused dishes at restaurants won’t be legal just yet.

“We understand the complexity of edibles and we want to make sure that we have the regulations in place to keep Canadians safe.”

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