Pot lovers have something extra to celebrate on this year’s Weed Day: the federal government’s legislation to decriminalize recreational marijuana introduced last week.
The annual April 20 cannabis culture celebrations have grown in significance this year with Ottawa’s Cannabis Act, highlighting a path to legalize recreational marijuana use by Canada Day next year, with distribution and sale laws varying from province to province.
The government introduced a series of bills, including one to strengthen impaired driving regulations.
Until anticipated laws are in place, however, it remains a criminal offence for an individual to possess any amount of marijuana.
READ MORE: The highs and lows of pot legalization
While the federal government says current marijuana laws will be enforced until new laws are passed, marijuana activist Eric Shepperd says he hopes the police take a relaxed approach to enforcement during a Thursday afternoon rally at Victoria Park.
“There is a change in the air. I believe the London Police Service recognize that their strategy was ineffective and unnecessary so hopefully, now we will be able to have a more reasoned event,” said Shepard.
In the meantime, it’s unclear how marijuana-related charges laid against smokers and pot shop owners before Ontario courts will be dealt with.
Several pot dispensaries in London have reopened, after police raids in early March led to drug-related charges for up to 10 people. It remains illegal for medicinal pot smokers to purchase marijuana from non-government-licensed producers.
Shepperd is using Thursday’s gathering to address what he calls flaws within the legislation.
“We do need to dampen that celebration by recognizing that these regulations are not perfect – they’re far from perfect in fact. This is an opportunity for us to unpack that legislation,” said Shepperd. “I, for one, hope this is a gateway to a larger conversation around drug use because we all use drugs. From caffeine to alcohol to cannabis – they’re all drugs so we need to think about these things intelligently.”
The proposed legislation would allow adults 18 and over to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana and grow up to four plants per residence for personal use.
Hundreds of activists are expected to flock to Victoria Park Thursday afternoon to kick-start a day of smoking marijuana, with an emphasis on communal smoking – around 4:20 p.m.