Before proceeding with this article I’d like to address the biggest perceived governmental ‘road block’ with legalizing marijuana; that being distribution: we in Canada already have a well fleshed out system of medical marijuana dispensaries. Inform businesses currently selling marijuana that as of X date all non-medical marijuana sales will not be to minors and be taxed at Y%; failure to comply will result in revoking their business license and other Bad Things from the Canada Revenue Agency. Give them either 6 months warning prior to legalization to get the right business license and taxation things down… or give them 6 months to comply after. This isn’t hard. I don’t believe medical marijuana sales should be taxed and hopefully the medical marijuana system; allowed full freedom, will flourish even more than it has.

My sincere fear about legalization is that all (or most) current medical marijuana dispensaries will be shut down in light of a system that only a corporation could navigate. I firmly believe that if the government doesn’t want private sales to be a thing they’re going to have to play nice with current dispensaries.

But just legalize it. Please. Please Trudeau keep your word. I’ve been wanting this since I was a teenager because I could see that it would benefit Canada and Canadians. Even if only by ceasing to cause considerable harm. While there’s a whole range of options from decriminalization of certain activities surrounding marijuana (such as personal consumption) to full scale legalization (which is what I would argue is best), it seems like Justin Trudeau is going to go for full legalization. (Huffington Post) I agree with Trudeau when he says that “Decriminalization, as this member [Mulcair, NDP] proposes, actually gives a legal stream of income to criminal organizations,”.

Because marijuana has been actively and harshly pursued for most of the past hundred years that the effects of prohibition are felt throughout the justice system and will require action and restructuring on a grand scale.

  • Legalization of marijuana would require a restructuring of current police forces. “in 2002 the Senate report pegged the annual cost of cannabis to law enforcement and the justice system at $300 million to $500 million” (Macleans)
    • We spend SO much on pot prohibition that this would cover Vancouver’s capital expenditures for a year. (325 million, Vancouver).
    • Or if we want to go big in our compariasons. Canada’s 2016 budget increased the amount of money given to seniors at risk living off old age security and guaranteed income supplements from an unspecified number to 947$/month. This represented an investment of “over $670 million per year” (Benefits Canada) This will improve the financial security of an estimated “900,000 single seniors across Canada.”
    • For 500 million dollars more think how many more could be helped.
  • What happens to people currently in jail for a marijuana related crime?
    • Do parole boards handle this because everyone in jail currently for marijuana related crimes will become eligible for parole?
    • Or will they stay in jail? reported that Trudeau has been noncommittal on an answer to this question.
  • But what about people who already served their time for a marijuana conviction? There are currently “Hundreds of thousands of Canadians have been convicted of possession of marijuana, leaving them with criminal records that can hinder employment opportunities and prevent them from visiting other countries. It’s a heavy price to pay for what is, in many cases, a minor offence.” Which Pardons Canada OUTRIGHT ADMITS whilst simultaneously describing some of the difficulties with issuing pardons for these people. (Pardons Canada)
    • While they do state the need for pardons to be issued, they state unequivocally that issuing blanket pardons would be a bad idea for Canada for these reasons:

Laws need to be changed, but we haven’t worked out how they should change. It would be premature to automatically wipe the slate clean for those with pot-possession records.

Victoria lawyer Robert Mulligan said that while expunging records of people found guilty of possessing personal amounts of marijuana is an important piece of the puzzle, it won’t be easy or simple.

“There’s a lot to this; it’s a challenge, and to expect the government to do it all so quickly is probably not realistic,” Mulligan said.

He said there is no single national database that stores drug-possession records. There are repositories for this information at all three levels of government and policing and beyond, he said. Expunging all those records would be an administrative challenge.

And if Canada pardons a criminal record for possession, it doesn’t mean it would be recognized by other countries, he said. Despite pardons, people who had been convicted of possession in the past might still be denied entry into the U.S., for example.

Mulligan also noted that not all marijuana-possession convictions are specified under “marijuana;” some might instead be lumped in as “possession of a narcotic,” which could include a long list of drugs. Also, trafficking charges for marijuana might have been reduced to possession convictions.

The federal government should move ahead on new laws regarding marijuana, but it shouldn’t be hasty — poorly crafted laws could bring unintended consequences. (From Pardons Canada)

Who does all this work? Who oversees it? HOW does it all get done in a remotely reasonable time frame to help all the people languishing with criminal records or in prison…? How is it funded? Would all funds currently allocated to marijuana prohibition cover the costs of rectifying this situation?

From my perspective there are some issues with how convictions for marijuana related offenses are dealt with and the only way to address this would be to have people make a petition to a specific board of people dealing only with overturning marijuana related convictions:

Who does this? People with marijuana convictions are often highly victimized and have reason to fear the legal system. They need advocates. Free advocates.

When I worked in a medical marijuana dispensary part of my job was helping people navigate Canada’s legal system to become legal medical marijuana users. This was in part to help people, but also in part so that we could expand our client base and sell to more people because we required people to have a Health Canada license for medical marijuana before we would sell to them. Though most clubs now operate on less stringent guidelines; our shop operated between 2010-2012 and the medical system was newer then. Dispensaries were being raided still on a fairly regular basis across Canada. My boss wanted more legal protection than a prescription from a medical professional would garner him.

To me, dispensaries are the logical choice to have an advocate either in the office or on call to meet with people about overturning their marijuana convictions. But who pays them? Are dispensaries paying for their services for their members with the increased revenue from legal sales? Or are these advocates less affiliated with the dispensary and are they government workers who recognize having their card at a dispensary would help connect people with their services?

When legalization happens, even if the people currently serving time for marijuana related crimes are dealt with in a proactive manner… will simply letting them out without a criminal record be sufficient? These people ‘broke the law’ as the law was written and made clear to them, and thus were ‘deserving’ of their punishment, but governments have waited SO long to legalize this despite years of mounting evidence… Is there legal precedent for a class action lawsuit for people thrown from jail to the street with no assistance…?

What if there was assistance? What would that look like. Would there be reparations? Will these people get any help back on their feet? Therapy? Any assistance? They will need assistance and the assistance provided to people getting out of prison might not work perfectly for them. They will not be exconvicts who served their time… they are innocent people who were incarcerated unjustly and just happened to be lucky enough not to have served their whole sentence when legalization happened?

What if Canada said something along the lines of. “we’re going to let you out of jail…. but if you take this get out of jail card you CAN’T SUE US LATER.” That doesn’t protect from a class action lawsuit from people who have served their time or continued to serve their time…

I need to do more research about whether a class action lawsuit would be possible for people who have already served a sentence for a marijuana related crime.


What then brave new world? What then.

For more reading:

USA: After legalization why can’t people’s prior convictions be wiped clean?

If the USA legalized weed what would happen to everyone in jail?

What happens to weed dealers/users before the stuff was legal? (USA)

The price of pot prohibition in Canada