Before a sea of Liberal red swept across the country on Monday, Justin Trudeau pledged to legalize and regulate marijuana “right away.”
“The Liberal party is committed to legalizing and regulating marijuana … we are going to get started on that right away,” Trudeau told a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop in British Columbia in September.
But just when is right away? Trudeau doesn’t seem to know.
“We don’t yet know exactly what rate we’re going to be taxing it, how we’re going to control it, or whether it will happen in the first months, within the first year, or whether it’s going to take a year or two to kick in,” he said.
However, with the majority win, the Liberals will have to overcome fewer obstacles when it comes to pushing the new legislation through – mainly the Harper government.
Former BC premier Mike Harcourt, who is now working with a medical marijuana company, is hopeful the change of government will bring in what he calls “intelligent policy” when it comes to pot, but it might take some time.
“I think the legalization of the recreational part, dealing with dispensaries, and dealing with provinces and all of that will require an act or parliament. So, it will probably have to wait until next spring or summer, if it is a high priority for the government.”
He believes it would bring some “sanity” to the industry “both the medicinal cannabis companies and the wild west out there in the illegal market — and the dispensaries. I think it’s good.”
During his campaign, former Conservative Leader Stephen Harper claimed that a majority of Canadians agreed with his opposition to legalizing marijuana and called the drug ‘infinitely worse’ than tobacco.
But with the Conservatives dropping to 99 seats, the official opposition likely won’t have much power to sway the vote their way, especially since the NDP are also in favour of legalizing marijuana.
According to Trudeau’s policy position, legalizing marijuana will remove the criminal elements from its sale and take away the expensive cost of prosecuting Canadians for possessing amounts of the drug.
“The proceeds from the illegal drug trade support organized crime and greater threats to public safety, like human trafficking and hard drugs,” the platform reads.
Canadian police reported about 73,000 cannabis offences in 2013 — 80 per cent of them for possession.
Trudeau’s plan would have pot sold under similar regulations as alcohol and cigarettes.
“We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied,” the policy reads.
And Canadians seem to agree with Trudeau’s stance.
A 2015 poll conducted by Forum Research showed that 68 per cent of Canadians are in favour of relaxing cannabis regulations.
In a June briefing note to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, deputy minister Francois Guimont said self-reported surveys indicate that Canadians, both adults and young people, have some of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.
“There is evidence that Canadians are increasingly likely to support the legalization or decriminalization of some illegal substances, particularly cannabis,” said Guimont’s note, released under the Access to Information Act.
In addition, “young people tend to view the drug as less harmful than other illegal substances.”
The rise in acceptance has had some cities take steps to make it more accessible, especially for those using the drugs for medicinal purposes.
Earlier this year Vancouver city council approved regulations to set zoning controls and licence fees for the city’s many pot shops.
In recent years, cannabis has been legalized in a number of countries and some states, including Colorado, Washington state and Alaska, and it’s meant big bucks.
According to the Denver Post, combined recreational and medicinal pot sales in the state pulled in over $100 million in revenue in August alone — the highest monthly total since recreational marijuana was legalized in January 2014.
In the first week alone, Oregon pot sales pulled in an estimated $11 million.
Those numbers had Bay Street buzzing on Tuesday as Canadian marijuana stocks surged.
Canopy Growth Corp was up 5.5 per cent to $2.29, Aphria rose 5.3 per cent at $1 and Mettrum Health gained 7.6 per cent to $1.98 after jumping 18 per cent.
The companies currently produce marijuana for medical use and could branch out to recreational pot.
With files from The Canadian Press