If you live on this planet then you’re probably aware that C A N A D A legalized the recreational use of marijuana back in 2018, which has quickly put our great nation in the spotlight in a whole new way.
Of course, Canada wasn’t just about to let the good times roll without some rules. Sure, we have the freedom to make informed, conscientious decisions about our health, but we still have some strict policies and procedures put in place to maintain that privilege. And while our existing policies are the source of much critical observation, as you have probably already guessed, they are for our own good.
We believe they’re for the future, greater good of everyone else as well.
Following Uruguay, Canada is the second country to legalize recreational cannabis and the first to maintain distribution through a federally designed system. It may seem like new restrictions and legislation change everyday, but in the long run, Canada is ironing out what works best while leading the way in the legal cannabis market. Here’s how:
Canada totally wants you to use cannabis and to be able to access its therapeutic and medicinal benefits, just as long as you’re safe and the greater interests of the nation are also respected. In order to ensure that the needs and interests of the country are collectively met, Canada has developed a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis, suitably named, The Cannabis Act.
This framework has three main goals:
- keep cannabis out of the hands of the youth
- keep cannabis profits out of the hands of criminals and the illicit market
- protect public health and safety by allowing adults legal access to cannabis
Despite some provincial shot callers, the Federal government is responsible for developing the framework for:
- the types of products available for sale
- packing & labelling
- standardizing serving size and potency
- production practices
- prohibition on certain ingredients
- tracking requirements from seed to sale, ensuring to keep product from illicit market distribution
- promotional restrictions
There are few noticeable ways that these guidelines have come to life in the legal and medical market in Canada since the October 17th, 2018.
First, you’ll notice that the only derivative of the plants available are those that have been carefully tested and have scientifically proven efficacy, which currently restricts access to oil and dried flower. Adults can carry up to 30 grams of dried flower, share that dried flower with other adults, and can access licensed seeds, growing up to four plants per household for personal use.
Distribution is Provincially regulated, so each province allows for slightly different practices. For example, the legal age of purchase, which functions much like the purchase of tobacco or alcohol, requires government issued photo I.D as proof of age. Selling cannabis to an underage person or using a minor to commit a cannabis related crime is also punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Cannabis brands and distributors are also strictly prohibited from:
- promoting products by appealing to youth through branding, packaging or labelling
- selling through self service or vending machines
- promoting the use of cannabis outside of forums that require an age check ie. websites
In a Canada vs. USA recreational comparison, these regulations can seem unfair, as we watch beautiful brands, products and graphics pour out of places like California. Some experts maintain that this will ultimately affect sales and growth, but seriously, until Canada figures out the best way to go about all of this — we’re doing the right thing by limiting the gimmicks, causing consumers to choose products based on quality.
They say you shouldn’t choose books (or wine) by the cover, so your green should be no exception.
2. PUBLIC EDUCATION
Here’s where we really up the ante for everyone following in our footsteps: a commitment to public education — the single largest keystone in the distance from where we are, to where we want to be. We are truly beyond blessed to live in a country that not only facilitates public education, but also values its role in the public health and safety and future greater good of its citizens.
The Canadian government is pledging $100 million dollars over six years to public cannabis education, awareness and surveillance. This initiative hopes to help reduce criminal activity, prevent impaired driving, protect the environment and promote ethical conduct around the use of cannabis. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the plethora of educational platforms, cannabis courses and medical information available, the easiest thing to do is access the Government operated education platform which provides reliable resources, statistics and information to both consumers, educators and the canna-curious.
Contrary to the times of Reefer Madness, a more subtle, conscientious approach to education has been developed that focuses on ‘harm reduction’ and situational avoidance, rather then the ‘drugs are bad – don’t do it’ conversation. Health Canada is targeting youth and teens with information by going to the source — social media and technology.
Health Canada has created an interactive engagement experience that will tour through fairs, sporting evens and festivals as early as this summer. The idea here is to connect with teens on their level, by providing information and safety risks and leaving it at that. No one likes being told what to do, especially teens, so providing accurate, accessible information and allowing the space to make well-informed decisions looks to empowering teens and helps to develop life-long critical thinking skills.
As it’s been said, more is more — and the more education we can provide, the better decisions can be made, and the greater influence we can have globally.
3. PRODUCTION STANDARDS
Where Canada is really standing out is in its production, distribution and cultivation standards. Currently, Canada has 180 licensed producers, processors and distributors and thousands more swimming in red tape. Getting canna-approved in Canada is right up there with getting struck by lightning. Seriously — the standards and regulations are no joke, because if you’re going to do something you should do it really, really, incomparably well.
Applicants must meet strict building standards and location guidelines, air quality testing, product handling techniques, light exposure specifications, pest control standards, handling procedures, tracking policies etc, etc, etc.
And here’s what’s good — Canada is producing the highest quality cannabis in the world. Not only can you be sure that you’re ingesting pesticide free, organic product, but you can also be sure that it was produced with the highest quality standards. More than that, we’re distributing these golden nuggets to worldwide medical markets to the tune of nearly 1,500 kilos in 2019 alone, more than tripling sales from the previous year.
4. ECONOMIC GROWTH
Here’s the heavy hitter, the home run, the reason we’re all here — Canada’s economic growth. According to Statistics Canada, the recreational market will grow the Canadian GDP by 8 billion in the next year alone. In the first year of legalization the recreational market was valued at $1.6 billion dollars, more than doubling the medical market, making Canada the third largest legal market in the world.
Impeding the illicit market pulled a $6 billion dollar industry out of the shadows, and as estimated by the parliamentary budget office, this burgeoning market is set to create between $350 – $960 million dollars in tax revenue over the first two years of legalization.
Considering we are just at the tipping point of legalization, there are unimaginable advancements to be seen in the future. The global legal marijuana market is expected to grow to nearly $42 billion dollars by 2022 — with nearly two-thirds of the market share coming from recreational usage. Holy. Shit.
THE FUTURE IN CANNABIS
There are many arguments regarding the pros and cons of legalizing weed. Currently, the biggest setback we’re facing is arguably, a supply and demand crisis — with the demand far, far surpassing the ability to supply. With a relatively short list of licensed producers and the approval process being a lengthy one, Canada’s LPs are unable to meet both the Canadian and global markets supply simultaneously.
In a bid to balance this crisis and to prevent purchases from funnelling into the illicit market, each province has taken a different approach to private cannabis retail. In Ontario, a small collection of privately owned distributors will be selected through a lottery draw to open the next waves of storefronts in 2019. This is nothing short of a short term solution, but buys some time as Health Canada works through its LP approval process over the next few years.
We will also see the labelling of cannabis move away from specific strains and towards cannabinoid ratios to communicate a far clearer picture of the medicinal benefits of each strain. So for example, instead of popping to the store to pick up your Blue Dream indica, you’ll be picking up a product with a 25:1 ratio of THC to CBD. With a standard ratio of 1:1, this paints a clear picture of what kind of a ride you’re about to embark on.
Finally, we’ll see the legalization of edibles and concentrates, which will open an endless market of topicals, edibles and beauty products in October 2019. This means Canadians will be able to access the therapeutic benefits of cannabis through a myriad of applications: teas, food, bath bombs, skin care products, salves, balms, anti-aging products, acne care etc. Looking forward to this legal market, adults will be able to carry edibles and concentrates in an equivalent to dried flower, meaning that for 1 gram of dried flower, consumers can carry:
- 5 grams of fresh flower
- 15 grams of edible product
- 70 grams of liquid
- 0.25 grams of concentrates
With the first year of legalization nearing an end, saying that we’ve seen a boom in the cannabis market would be the understatement of the year. It’s more like we’ve seen just the very tip of the iceberg in the legal, worldwide market and Canada is certainly leading the way. In the next year, we’ll see the true capacity for the market as the edible and concentrates industry opens up, and a surgence of funding for medical research develops and the supply and demand crisis becomes properly addressed.
Luckily, we get front row seats to the development of what will surely become a global blueprint for the legal, medical and recreational cannabis markets. Canada has put in place some of the most dense legal framework and infrastructure in the industry worldwide, allowing very little room for error. This sets the standard for everyone else to level up and still have some fun along the way.