Marijuana officially became legal in Canada this week. But what does that mean?  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been specifically talking about it from a sports perspective, but what does it mean for the rest of the country?  Some could argue that there are global implications in this regard as it’s now precedent setting.  Will this have any implications on the illegal drug trade?  Unlikely as marijuana isn’t the drug that law enforcement agencies are after. Further, it’s been proven to have health benefits, so why put people in jail for it?  Which is what we see in the United States every day.  Will Canada’s legalization have an impact on the United States?  Here’s hoping so.

To back up a bit, the legalization of marijuana in Canada doesn’t mean that you can spark up a joint in front of your local police department.  It seems to have the same rules and regulations around it that alcohol does.  But Canadian Provinces have put further rules and regulations around it, which are in addition to the federal law.  If you live in Toronto, for example, you have to be 19 to purchase legal marijuana.  This is the same as the drinking age.  What’s incredibly fascinating is that the Province of Ontario is going to be the one to regulate its sales.  More specifically, you will have to buy it from the government.  Again, this is how alcohol is purchased in Ontario as it’s regulated through the government.  The Province is also promising private retail, but when that’s happening remains to be seen.

As indicated, you can’t smoke marijuana just anywhere.  The law only allows you to use it in your own private residence.  There is pending legislation that would allow an individual to consume marijuana wherever tobacco consumption is legal.  Again – in your private residence, for one.  But there are certain open spaces where it’s allowed.  Of course, this would exclude inside most facilities, parks, in your car if a child under the age of 16 is present, and there also seem to be separation distances for entrances that you have to abide by.

In addition, you can only have about 30 grams of it on you, in public.  Any more than that and it’s considered illegal.  In most provinces, the government is going to allow you to grow up to four marijuana plants per household – for recreational use.  Two provinces are current holdouts in this regard – Quebec, and Manitoba.  That will change rather quickly as it will only take one person (a lawyer for example) to push that it’s unconstitutional for a province to override what the federal government is saying, so stay tuned on that one.

Lastly, many employers are updating their cannabis policies.  Both Air Canada and WestJet have prohibited recreational cannabis use for pilots and those in “safety-sensitive positions”.  Rules for police offers vary across the country.  Calgary’s police service forbids its use outright, while Vancouver is requiring officers to self-evaluate to determine if they are fit for duty.  Whereas in Toronto, police will be required to be off of work for 28 days after they consume marijuana.

Overall, this is an incredibly interesting scenario both from a political perspective as well as from a legal perspective.  How this will play out for other countries, remains to be seen.  While the political landscapes are completely different for our friends north of the border, perhaps we can learn something from them in regards to legalizing marijuana.