Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor
Cannabis has only been legal in Canada for a little over a month, but it’s no secret how much change it’s brought. Tons of businesses are opening and creating jobs across the country, and we’ve become an example of success that may influence other countries deciding whether or not to legalize. There have certainly been problems keeping up with supply and demand, and police attitudes are taking time to shift, but on the whole, things seem to be changing in a positive light.
In my personal experience, though, what’s made legalization a net positive is that its benefits have not really come at a social cost. I don’t have anything against it, but from this view, I’ve seen a ton of concerns about its legalization. People have feared it leading to greater safety risks or substantially increasing the number of unhealthy users.
So far, though, legalization has yet to really have these negative effects. If anything, it feels like a world that’s changing for those who use it, but not altering life in Canada as much as people feared.
While legalized pot is still new to Canada, it doesn’t seem to be getting used that much more than it was before. According to a recent federal survey, Canadian drug use has only gone up a few points, but marijuana is still quite minor compared to tobacco. Even just walking around though, it’s certainly not a plague upon our streets. At worst, there’s an occasional aroma from someone using it in the street, but this is something I’ve experienced every time I’m downtown for over a decade.
Cannabis’s non-invasive presence has also been helped by legalization being a rather smooth transition. Stores might have sold out online quickly since legalization, but spaces and policies for smoking it were implemented most everywhere just in time to make sure it isn’t used in public spaces. I’d certainly say SFU Burnaby’s designated smoking zones are an example of fixes that are working well to keep it out of people’s hair. I see it at parties, clubs, and concerts, but that’s always been the case — even before legislation — and it’s never truly been that invasive then either.
Even safety hasn’t changed all that much, in spite of the fears that people may have from the recent flurry of ads discouraging driving while under the influence. As reported by CTV News, people driving high on pot in Canada happens about as much after legalization as it was before. It’s awful that the rate isn’t dropping, but at least it’s a sign that there’s no need to worry about a sudden strain of impaired driving from cannabis users.
These successes also don’t really come as a surprise. Canada might have been trending on Twitter back on October 17, but the legislation has been ongoing for months, and the laws will continue to change over time. Within the coming months, we’re bound to see more cannabis supply and changes in public perception as it becomes a normal part of Canadian life.
Though I should correct myself: even before legalization, it was normal. Pot’s been an active part of our country for a long time, and things are moving as they should to keep it in the background for those who don’t want it.
This isn’t to say it’s been actually invisible, or widely loved. There’s still intense fears that it’s becoming so normalized that children will start taking it; it doesn’t help that there are also fears about the rise of edibles, especially back during Halloween. We’ve also been slow towards appealing marijuana-related crimes before the legalization in October. People are still in jail for various marijuana crimes that don’t exist as of last month, and that isn’t something to take lightly.
But in our day-to-day social lives, at least in Vancouver, things are relievingly similar to how they were before legalization. Legalizing pot is a shift that’s been in the works for a while, and it’s doing a lot of good without encroaching on the lives of non-users. When something’s worst-case scenario is just doing nothing, it’s a good call.