Should marijuana for recreational use be legalised in Canada?

By Tacye Hong, University of Toronto

Marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001, but only for medicinal purposes. This year, the Cannabis Act will change that

By Tacye Hong, University of Toronto |

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Anne McLellan, Chair of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation, and Vice Chair Mark Ware submitted a report on how to better protect public health and safety.

The use of marijuana, known as weed or cannabis, is fairly common in the United States. Recreational marijuana – when the drug is not used for medicinal purposes – is legal in nine states. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. In 2001, cannabis was made legal in Canada for medicinal use only, but this might be about to change.

The legalisation of marijuana for recreational use has been debated in Canada since 2015, when Justin Trudeau was campaigning to become prime minister. Three years later, we are months away from seeing his campaign promise come to pass. Let’s take a look at why the Canadian government wants to legalise recreational marijuana, and why this topic is so controversial.

If the weed remains illegal for recreational use, people will still buy and use it for that purpose – just not lawfully. No matter how many are arrested for dealing in marijuana, there will still be people to do that job. There’s money in it. But if cannabis is legalised, then the need for a black market disappears, which improves people’s safety.

A legal substance would have to be taxed to be sold, and if cannabis is taxed, it would generate millions of dollars in revenue. This money can then be used towards improving the country’s infrastructure, and medical and other services. 

Naysayers say that cannabis is an addictive substance. It can affect a person’s perception, and if someone were to be under the influence when driving, they might be involved in an accident. Also, the long-term use of marijuana might cause health problems. It’s understandable why people might not want it to be so easily accessible. 

The Cannabis Act will allow individuals to grow up to four marijuana plants for their own use. Landlords are presumably not looking forward to this, as marijuana has a very strong smell that lingers. The plants need a certain degree of humidity to flourish, and this might create mould in walls. The cannabis legalisation might harm their livelihoods – if they decide not to rent to tenants who want to grow the plants, then they might not have any tenants at all.

With so many opinions on its legalisation, the government still has plenty to talk about before the act is passed – and after that, too.

I believe the government will be able to control its distribution and make sure things don’t spiral out of control.

There is no need to legalise it as early as this summer, though. The government is reviewing all of the details as carefully as it can, but it needs more time.

There are still many questions to be answered. What about the people who have been previously convicted of possession of this soon-to-be legal substance? What about Americans who cross the border to use weed legally in Canada? There is still much work to do.

Edited by Ginny Wong