Real change indeed. Canadians have elected a pro-legalisation prime minister in Justin Trudeau, a sharp departure from the outgoing Conservative Party that so vigorously opposed it. But the Liberal Leader said many times during the campaign cannabis laws won't be changed overnight. Here are five questions to keep in mind as the victorious Liberal Party pursues their agenda to turn Canada from a prohibitionist to a legal country.
The Liberal Party's platform did include a proposal to legalize cannabis, but the platform was long on promises and short on details.
When he announced his commitment to legalization, Trudeau wouldn't say when a Liberal government would legalize and how it would regulate the marijuana market. He claims that the absence of a firm commitment in his party's campaign platform signals his intention to handle the issue carefully by examining best practices in other countries before developing an approach to legalization for Canada.
"We believe in being responsible and realistic in the costing of our plans," he said. "We didn't book for tax revenues for marijuana because we don't know yet what rate we're going to be taxing it."
Trudeau has tapped Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and current Liberal MP, to lead a team to create the framework for a legal recreational market.
So when will it happen?
Your guess is about as good as Trudeau's. At a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., Oct. 1, he said his government would begin working 'right away' on their policy to legalize and regulate a marijuana market in Canada. But he offered no timeline.
"We don't yet know exactly what rate we're going to be taxing it, how we're going to control it, or whether it will happen in the first months, within the first year, or whether it's going to take a year or two to kick in," Trudeau said.
Who will we look to for guidance?
Trudeau said he wants to study the best practices in other markets. So which ones?
Kate Purchase, the director of communications for Trudeau's campaign, mentioned Colorado as one likely model.
Here's an overview of the cannabis laws in Colorado, which restricts cannabis to people aged 21 and over, who can possess up to one ounce of buds on their person, and can grow up to six plants in their household.
What will Americans think?
The legal status of cannabis could change relations between Yanks and Canucks for four reasons:
A. Border battles: since cannabis remains illegal in most states, officials will have to be extra-vigilant when monitoring international traffic along the world's longest unprotected border.
B. Anti-pot pressure: when Jean Chrétien - the last Liberal prime minister to consider decriminalizing cannabis - put forth a bill to change Canada's cannabis laws, the Bush administration applied severe political pressure to deter its northern neighbor from breaking rank on the cannabis issue. Will President Obama or his successor similarly oppose Canada's anti-prohibition movement, or will the legalization movements sweeping America make the U.S. more amenable to a decriminalized North America?
C. A Rival market: one of the main engines driving legalization initiatives in the U.S. is the prospect of cannabis becoming a cash crop. But will that market shrink due to competition from Canada? Conversely would legalization open up new markets for the U.S. cannabis industry?
D. Vape-cations: Canada could become the next Netherlands: a tourist destination for people looking to enjoy legal weed. Sure, Americans could visit the legal states, but for people in Michigan, or Montana, it might be more convenient to head north.