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5 Key Questions That Will Shape Canada's Recreational & Medical Marijuana Markets

If you're confused about the potential rules and regulations regarding medical and recreational marijuana in Canada, you're in good company. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne recently lamented that the federal government hasn't clarified the issue for provinces and territories. "That clarification hasn't happened and I think there is some blurring of the line," she said. "We're a bit in the weeds."

To help out, we've put together a list of key issues that will define differences between medical and recreational marijuana in Canada.

1. When will the rules be clarified?

The government will offer some clarification about Canada's medical marijuana laws by late August of this year, which is the deadline to implement the ruling from the court case that upheld the rights of patients to grow marijuana at home. However, we might not get an idea about what regulations for recreational marijuana will look like - including the potential for home growing - until federal legislation is introduced in spring 2017.

2. Where can patients buy marijuana?

Right now, the only 100 percent legal way to buy medical marijuana is through Health Canada's mail-order system, which connects patients with licensed producers across the country. However, Vancouver patients can purchase marijuana through licensed medical dispensaries, which aren't federally legal, but the city has allowed them to operate within a "gray market." Cities such as Victoria are taking Vancouver's lead while others are trying to crack down on dispensaries through fines or raids. It goes without saying that recreational use is still illegal, though activists have been pushing for immediate halt to arrests and decriminalization as a step toward legalization.

3. Where will marijuana be sold in the future?

Many assume that medical marijuana dispensaries will be legalized and regulated along with recreational retailers. But the feds haven't commented on the issue, so it's possible that patients will continue buying medicine through the mail while other Canadians go through retailers.

However, groups are pressuring the government to expand access for patients - either by legalizing dispensaries or allowing pharmacies to begin medical marijuana as well. That could mean Shopper's Drug Mart and other pharmacies working with - or replacing - dispensaries as well as licensed producers.

The federal government has also been tight-lipped about where recreational marijuana will be sold. Some possibilities include provincially-owned liquor stores, privately-owned stores similar to shops in legal states, a system mixing those models, or one including both, as well as an Amazon-like courier service.

4. What about home growing?

Based on the Allard case, it's expected that the federal government will amend Health Canada's regulations to allow all medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis at home. Right now some patients are allowed to grow marijuana through a court injunction that expires when the new rules take place.

But the government hasn't commented on whether or not Canadians will be allowed to grow marijuana at home for personal, recreational use. However, Kirk Tousaw - one of the lawyers in the grow-at-home case - told Civilized that it could be unconstitutional to criminalize the cultivation of a plant that people can buy in stores.

"I don't think the charter would allow a situation where you can buy a plant in the stores but you can't grow it in your backyard. That seems to me to be a very serious infringement on Section 7 of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms]," which protects a person's autonomy and personal liberties.

5. What will the legal age be?

One big difference between medical and recreational marijuana regulations will likely involve age restrictions. All of America's legal states have harmonized the legal drinking age - 21 or older - with the "toking age." If Canada followed suit, the legal age would be 18 or 19 depending on the province.

But Health Canada restricts medical marijuana to patients 18 or older. And groups such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada argue that the age should be raised to 25 because marijuana could negatively impact the developing brain.

That last detail could influence the federal government's decision on the legal age for recreational use. But the government hasn't clarified whether they'll set the legal age based on when cannabis consumption is considered safe or when society believes people are old enough to make adult decisions.

h/t CBC


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