The Global Perception of Cannabis is Changing: Canada’s Legalization Paves the Way for Mainstream Cannabis Culture
Canada’s Cannabis Framework
On October 17, 2018, the fabric of Canadian culture began to slowly change as the Cannabis Act came into effect. This piece of legislation created a strict framework that now controls the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis in Canada. The ultimate goal of legalization was to two-pronged: to prevent youth from accessing cannabis and to displace the illegal cannabis market and keep profits out of the hands of criminals. Though cannabis for medical use was previously allowed this new sweeping reform now allows for the legal use of recreational cannabis by adults across Canada.
This legislation is also the first step in normalizing and destigmatizing the use of cannabis by adults in Canada. Each province dictates the minimum age (within reason) for cannabis use, as well as how much cannabis adults can possess, how they can access it, and where it can be used. This has also created favourable conditions for the scientific study of cannabis and its effects, which could further expand its medicinal uses.
The Canadian government’s goal is to bring cannabis use out of the shadows so that it can be effectively studied, monitored, and controlled. Legalization has also opened the door for public education, allowing experts to educate consumers about cannabis, its effects, and any potential side effects associated with its use. This could help us better understand cannabis as medicine, and better identify and hone its medical properties. This could, in turn, allow Canadians more choice when it comes to managing chronic pain and potentially divert more people away from dangerous opioids.
Canadians have responded to legalization with gusto, and many dispensaries reported long lines and brisk sales on opening day. Many popular products sold out within hours and demand does not appear to be slowing down. Though many stores anticipated that demand would be strong, there was no way for anyone to know exactly how popular legal cannabis would be because all previous data was self reported by individuals who feared criminal persecution.
The New Cannabis Culture
When most of us think of cannabis culture we may think of Bob Marley posters, ugly glass bongs, and hushed conversations in back rooms full of smoke. However, one Calgary based cannabis dispensary (which falls under Alberta’s juridsdiction) is working to rework the relationship between cannabis and adult users and create a new, upscale culture around cannabis consumption. Using an educational approach Four20 Premium Market aims to break the stigmas associated with cannabis and provide consumers with carefully selected products and accessories through an upscale boutique style shopping experience. Offerings such as premium strands, attractive accessories, a friendly and informative atmosphere aim to not only destigmatize current users but also attract new potential customers who may not have previously considered trying cannabis.
Efforts like this help normalize responsible cannabis use amongst adults and break down societal biases associated with it. Efforts like Four20 Premium Market’s mirror the changing perceptions of Canadians, and many individuals around the world, about cannabis consumption.
While many older Canadians may be familiar with the menacing anti-cannabis PSAs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, in reality, cannabis use has been slowly gaining acceptance amongst younger Canadians for quite some time. Legalization is a response to what many Canadians have been saying for years: Cannabis use is not as harmful as we were once lead to believe, and adults should be allowed to consume it in a safe and responsible manner.
In fact, the latest Canadian Community Health Survey, which was conducted in 2012 found that 12.2% of Canadians 15 and older (or about 3.4 million people) had used cannabis in the last year, and that number rose to 33.3% when looking at 18 to 24 year olds. The study also found at a total of 43% of Canadians ages 15 and older had tried cannabis in their lifetime, and 33.5% of those who had used it had done so more than once.
Legalization has also renewed a cry across Canada for people with minor cannabis-related criminal records to receive pardons. According to a study conducted in 2014, more than 500,000 Canadians have a criminal record due to having cannabis on their person. However, the number of individuals convicted of simple cannabis possession offences each year declined rapidly after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced his plan to legalize cannabis. Pardons, it has been argued, will help shed the burden and stigma associated with having a criminal record, which can be a huge barrier to education, housing, jobs, and volunteer work. Since simple cannabis possession is no longer a crime in Canada the logic follows that those whose possession would not be criminal under current laws should no longer be considered criminals.
To help expedite the process of receiving a cannabis possession related pardon the government has pledged to waive the steep fee for receiving a record suspension (typically $631 Canadian) and dispense with the standard waiting period (five years for a summary offence, and ten years for an indictable offence). However, pardons still have their limits. They can surpress someone’s criminal record, but do not expunge it completely. This means that individuals that manage to obtain a pardon have still been convicted of a criminal offense and can still face both societal barriers and barriers related to international travel.
Canada’s legalization of cannabis use is a reflection of changing societal attitudes towards responsible cannabis amongst adults. Through this legislation, Canada is bringing cannabis use out of the shadows and into the open where it can be monitored, regulated, and studied. Companies such as Four20 Premium Market are also doing their part to reshape how cannabis use is perceived by normalizing cannabis use and breaking down the harmful stigmas that cannabis users face.