Viewpoint: Does cannabis legalization really change anything?

As of October 17, recreational marijuana is legal in Canada. Legal for anyone to grow at home, in small amounts, and legal to purchase, at least for anyone who is inclined to travel and shop at BC’s only licensed establishment, a government-run store in Kamloops.

Mike Farnworth, BC minister of public safety and solicitor general, has warned existing private and non-licensed dispensaries to abide by the rules, meaning they need to go through the lengthy permitting process, and close their doors or face large fines. Only time will tell how many of the non-licensed facilities will continue to operate without going through the process of obtaining a legal permit from the government, which involves applications, background checks and location approvals from city or regional governments.

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While this is happening, the status quo will continue. Until the number of government-run or private stores approved and open for business meets the demand for recreational cannabis, those who have been accessing it through other means will continue to do so, whether it is through a relative, friend, non-licensed facility or on a street corner.

October 17 will be a day to celebrate for some legalization advocates, but others see a long road ahead before what many perceive as true legalization actually comes into effect. Buying cannabis from unlicensed facilities that day will still be illegal, so what exactly has changed? Well, people can grow their own at home, but whatever they plant at 12:01 am on October 17 is unlikely to be ready for consumption by that evening.

Oh, and that other new, legal source courtesy of the provincial government available online at, it has a contract with Canada Post for deliveries. Rotating strikes by Canadian Union of Postal workers could begin Monday, October 22, so don’t count your buds before you see them in the mailbox.

The stigma associated with marijuana use may linger for some time before BC residents become accustomed to witnessing people smoking cannabis in public, in the appropriate areas, but the long sought-after freedom and finish line advocates have hoped legalization will bring is still far in the distance.

For non-users, October 17 is just another day. If you’re not buying or growing, what difference does it make if it is legal or not? The one common thread between users and non-users might involve concerns that legalization will lead to more consumption by those under the age of 19. The fact is, similar to anyone at any age who currently uses cannabis, they are already getting it from somewhere, or someone. That source is not going away anytime soon, at least not until the number of licensed stores meets the demand.

And selling or providing cannabis to someone under the age of 19 will fall under the same category as alcohol. That’s illegal, too, and no one ever does that, right?

Shane Carlson is a Powell River resident and editor at Powell River Peak.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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