Marijuana will officially be legal in Canada in exactly 17 weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday afternoon, and for some, that’s really good news.
For others, however, the government’s decision to allow that much time between the passage of legislation and the actual lifting of prohibition on cannabis will not be welcome.
Ottawa had initially promised the gap would be somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks, which would have worked out to a date between mid-August and mid-September. As late as this past weekend, Parliamentary Secretary Bill Blair was predicting a date in September.
Tacking on an extra five weeks, with legalization now set for Oct. 17, will require adjustments from municipalities, provinces, businesses, consumers and police.
Here are the potential winners and losers.
Well-prepared small provinces that need the money. Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and (especially) New Brunswick have a clear, detailed plan for legalization, down to the street address of every store and the date it’s scheduled to open.
New Brunswick officials were recently showing off a new CannabisNB store in Saint John, complete in every detail except for the pot and the employees. New Brunswick has also been hoping to develop cannabis as an economic sector, but it seems that won’t happen immediately.
Consumers. If you were looking forward to going shopping under legalization, it seems like you’ll have to cool your jets for a while yet.
Marijuana companies. Whole industries are gearing up to grow legal pot for Canadians. They’ll lose a month or so of sales.
WATCH: With marijuana legalization right around the corner in New Brunswick, Global’s Todd Veinotte got a sneak peek at the new stores that will sell the drug.
Big, richer provinces. They get some much-needed breathing room. Ontario and Quebec are far, far behind the Maritimes in their planning for legal marijuana sales. In Ontario, legalization is combining awkwardly with a change of government. Will a PC government continue with a plan for selling pot as a government monopoly, staffed by unionized employees? At this late date, do they have a choice?
Municipalities. Local governments have many thankless decisions to make about the details of legalization. Whether to licence home grows, for example: what a home grow bylaw would say and why, who would do the enforcement and how, whether to charge a fee, how to referee neighbour disputes.
Across Canada, late-night council meetings await in communities large and small.
Police. Police across Canada have said they need more time to prepare for legalization. Impaired driving involving marijuana, for example, poses enforcement problems that don’t arise with alcohol, which is in some ways a simpler issue. Devices that could be used for roadside saliva testing to detect marijuana in a driver’s body are still not approved, let alone ordered or delivered to officers in the field.
The 17-week delay before legalization could relieve some of these pressures, allowing police to move further along with training, equipment and other preparations.
Dangerous workplaces. Employers worry about the impact of legal marijuana in workplaces where an error can get someone killed. They get a bit more time to look at how to approach the problem.
Your neighbourhood dealer. He’ll be in business for a while yet.