Canada legalized medical marijuana nationwide 17 years ago. With the country awaiting the rollout of recreational marijuana sales later this month, it’s important to recognize the impact that medical marijuana has had on legalizing recreational marijuana. To start, we’ll look at the history of cannabis prohibition in Canada and then identify the various effects that medical marijuana has had on the country.
History of Marijuana Prohibition in Canada
Marijuana was criminalized by Parliament in 1923 along with opium, morphine, cocaine, heroin, and codeine (which was subsequently removed from the schedule of illegal drugs). At the time, little was known about cannabis and it is believed that it wasn’t being commonly used in the country.
Because of this, it’s generally thought that there was little reason to criminalize marijuana and that it was done so as a sign of the times. Surprisingly little was written about marijuana or marijuana prohibition at the time it was criminalized, and it may be that the move was a result of the larger prohibition movement, which was still affecting parts of the country. While marijuana prohibition didn’t have a big impact on Canada at the time — the first arrest for marijuana possession didn’t come until 1932 — it certainly had a larger impact later in the 20th century as cannabis became more popular across the country.
The Effects of Medical Marijuana on Recreational Legalization
In 2001, with the passage of the Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR), medical marijuana was finally introduced in Canada. Despite legal challenges and revisions, medical marijuana has grown in popularity across the country and is even covered under some health insurance plans.
Medical marijuana and its efficacy and usefulness as a treatment option has helped changed popular attitudes regarding cannabis, allowing for the normalization of use. By framing it as a medicine, more Canadians have been able to envision the impact that regulated marijuana can have on the lives of those suffering from certain conditions or symptoms. Simultaneously, the possibility of marijuana as a safe, recreational drug, much like alcohol, has taken hold more effectively now that there has been more research done on the effects of marijuana.
For some, the ability to attain marijuana in different forms, such as extracts and edibles, has helped remove some of the stigma associated with smoking flower. Being able to take CBD capsules, for examples, rather than smoking cannabis seems more palatable and safer to some individuals. This has opened the eyes of many Canadians to the possibilities that cannabis presents. For example, as research into the different components of marijuana such as the cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBG, as well as terpenes such as myrcene and linalool, continues, more individuals will be able to select extracts and cannabis strains that can help create certain effects, such as helping them become more focused or allowing them to relax.
Medical marijuana has helped illustrate Canada’s ability to regulate the sale of pharmaceutical, high-quality cannabis and created a strong Canadian cannabis industry with multiple market leaders. While expanding the system to allow for the sale of recreational marijuana may lead to some hiccups, much of the framework is already in place thanks to the rollout of medical marijuana at the start of the millennium.
Of course, recreational marijuana will present its own challenges. Before the Cannabis Act was passed, policing and retail issues were identified. As with any new industry, it will take some time to iron out the wrinkles, but there’s no doubt that effective solutions will be found that will help safeguard the public while allowing for the legal sale of recreational marijuana to Canadian adults.
As only the second nation in the world to allow recreational marijuana, Canada’s cannabis industry will certainly be under the microscope as both investors and other countries explore opportunities for growth and expansion. However, as Canada’s medical marijuana program has illustrated, the country is well-suited for rolling out recreational marijuana and primed to continue its growth in the cannabis sector.