Sober Start as Recreational Marijuana Becomes Legal in Canada

TORONTO/VANCOUVER (Reuters/Hamodia) -
(123rf)

Canada became the first industrialized nation to legalize recreational cannabis on Wednesday, but it will be hard to come by in its biggest cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where stores are not yet open.

The day was historic for the country as Canadian adults can now legally use recreational marijuana after nearly a century-long ban. But provinces and businesses have struggled to prepare, and legalization was pushed back from a July start to enable setting up distribution and sales networks.

Despite the early problems, the move is a political win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who vowed to legalize cannabis during his 2015 election campaign. The pledge was aimed at taking profits away from organized crime and regulating the production, distribution and consumption of a product that millions of Canadians consume illegally.

“The prohibition on marijuana has not worked in this country,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “Young Canadians have the highest usage of marijuana anywhere in the world … criminal organizations and street gangs make over C$6 billion a year on the sale of marijuana across the country… That needs to stop and that’s exactly what we have done.”

The federal government and many provinces have been cautious, starting with limited stores and products, including no edible cannabis products for a year, and tight control over supply.

Ontario, home to Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, will have no stores until April 2019 due to a change in the province’s retail model by a new provincial government.

Shares of Canadian cannabis companies retreated on Wednesday after rallying in the run-up to legalization. Canopy and Aurora Cannabis, the world’s two biggest cannabis producers, closed down 4.3 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, after touching all-time highs on Tuesday.

Law enforcement of those driving under the influence of marijuana could be patchy. In August, Canada approved a device to detect levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element in cannabis, in a driver’s saliva.

In addition to being a pathway for the usage of even more dangerous substances, the effects of marijuana include a loss of coordination and difficulty thinking and problem solving. This can make tasks such as driving a car dangerous. Driving simulation research has shown that using cannabis has been shown to impair key driving-related skills including reaction time, tracking ability, and target detection; cognitive skills like judgment, anticipation, and divided attention; and executive functions like route planning and risk taking.

Users may be unable to tell the difference between oneself and others, suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and being overly suspicious and distrustful.