Marijuana might not be legal in Canada yet, but according to an announcement on 4/20, the Liberals have set a timeline to institute a set of regulations that would allow for the legal sale and consumption of cannabis sometime in spring of 2017.
Depending on where you are, this might be welcome news, or it might just be more of the same. For many in the country, marijuana law and public perception exists in a grey area, where police forces have stepped back from the stricter enforcement policies of only a few years ago.
Changing minds in the prairie provinces
With the NDP's win over the incumbent Conservative Party in Alberta in 2015, the province had a shift in how its leadership viewed marijuana. Previously, former premier Alison Redford and her successor Jim Prentice subscribed to the now debunked belief that marijuana is a gateway drug.
The NDP government has largely played it safe since they came to power. With federal regulations approaching, premier Rachel Notley hasn't committed to one side of the debate or the other.
Next door in Saskatchewan, premier Brad Wall hasn't come out in support of decriminalization or legalization. Even though he admitted to smoking pot in his youth, he still alluded to its ability to "lead to other things."
While Wall's tone has softened since the Liberal win in the last federal election, it seems to be more out of resignation than anything. He believes not enough research has been done, presenting a wait-and-see approach as his current stance.
Eastern provinces in favour of change
Over in Justin Trudeau's home province of Quebec, legalization remains a tricky issue. Premier Philippe Couillard wants more discussion on whether the country should pursue full legalization or decriminalization.
Adding to some of the confusion over the future of marijuana sales in Quebec, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao stated his government would have no part in the commercialization of pot, then quickly backtracked. While it seems the Quebec government is in favour of changing current laws, there's a great deal of debate in the province as to how it should be done.
In Ontario, police continue to raid unlicensed pot shops, but Premier Kathleen Wynn has backed Trudeau's legalization plan, even being one of the first to suggest it should be sold under the existing framework of the LCBO. Ontario has quickly become the friendliest province to marijuana legalization.
The West Coast's perspective
But what about BC? The West Coast is often viewed as a sort of marijuana free for all, and Vancouver was a champion of drug policies that contradicted the views of the Harper government. The city was the first to regulate dispensaries.
Outside of major cities like Vancouver and Victoria, however, the RCMP are shutting down dispensaries (in Sidney, Campbell River, Chilliwack and Nanaimo) nearly as fast as they're opening. Kelowna is ranked number one for pot arrests in the country.
Over the years, premier Christy Clark has avoided taking a particular stance, though she supported the Harper government's Bill C-10, which included tougher sentencing for growing. She has stayed largely out of the marijuana discussion, but promised to work with Ottawa when the time comes.
Even though everyone knows legalization is coming, there's still a heated debate on how it should be done. Most of the premiers have taken a safe approach by tentatively supporting some sort of change, but nothing beyond that. Instead, most provinces prefer to wait things out when it comes to marijuana legalization, allowing the federal government to guide the discussion.
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