How would marijuana legalization work in Canada?

A woman holds up a bud of marijuana.
A woman holds up a bud of marijuana she purchased at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Eric Risberg

TORONTO – The push from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to legalize marijuana has pot smokers hopeful it won’t go up in smoke.

Sitting inside the smokey second floor room at Vapour Central, a downtown Toronto meeting place for cannibis users, employee Dave Unrau is feeling optimistic.

“I think it’s great news. It’s a sign of the times, ” said Unrau. “The writing’s on the wall and legalization is coming,” he said.

If marijuana is successfully legalized in Canada, CAMH says it should be sold and regulated like alcohol. There would also be strict rules around consumption and availability as well as a minimum age of purchase of 18.

“Marijuana is not completely safe but nor is alcohol or tobacco. But we have regulated suppliers,” said Bernard Dickens, a law professor at the University of Toronto. “Marijuana would be mainstreamed in the same way.”

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Dickens says policy makers could look to Washington and Colorado as examples where marijuana is already legal. In Colorado, business is booming with an influx of pot-related tech start ups. Legalizing marijuana in Canada would help generate income by making jobs in the pot industry legal.

“It’s clear that the so-called war against drugs has not been successful,” explains Dickens. “Not only has it failed, but it’s been counterproductive in that it has generated a criminal culture much like alcohol prohibition did in the 1930s.”

READ MORE: CAMH says marijuana should be legalized and regulated

Last year the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police voted in favour of making pot possesssion a finable offence, which could help free up the court system. Speaking outside of a Toronto Police Board meeting Thursday, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said there could be a benefit to decriminalizing marijuana.

“We still have to consider regulation to keep that drug out of the hands of children,” said Chief Blair. “And to make sure that organized crime does not profit from its trafficking.”

Those in support of legalizing marijuana agree and say users would be able to purchase the drug from regulated dispensaries instead of turning to criminal activity. At the Melted Cafe in downtown Toronto, owner Neev Tapiero said medicinal marijuana users will be closely monitoring what happens next.

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“They would get their marijuana from a legal source,” said Neev. “Rather than a dispensary or black market source.” he said.

If marijuana is legalized and regulated similar to alcohol, it would also be subjected to taxes like alcohol and cigarettes.

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