Cannabis IQ: Possession amnesty debated, buzzkill in Quebec and more
Here’s what we learned this week:
What will happen to the half-million Canadians who have criminal records for marijuana-related offences?
The federal government has hedged, half-promising some kind of amnesty.
“We’ll take steps to look at what we can do for those folks who have criminal records for something that would no longer be criminal,” prime minister Justin Trudeau said last year. “We will move forward in a thoughtful way on fixing past wrongs that happened because of this erroneous law that I didn’t put in place and that I’m working hard to fix.”
WATCH: Trudeau discusses amnesty for marijuana possession
Until this week, though, nothing resembling an actual bill had appeared in the Commons.
But on Thursday, Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin introduced a private member’s bill that would “expunge” (or erase) records of people who have been convicted of simple possession of marijuana (ie. quantities for person use, not trafficking.)
“People tell me they can’t coach their kids’ soccer team or chaperone a school trip all because they have criminal record for possession of a small level of cannabis,” Rankin said.
The process would be free, unlike a pardon application, which costs $631.
It’s more complicated than it sounds, though. As we reported last year, Canada’s national criminal database can’t clearly break out people with a record for possession of marijuana from other drug possession offences, so an amnesty will be a labour-intensive, one-by-one process.
WATCH: Newly-elected CAQ MNA Geneviève Guilbault says the party has been clear that the legal age for marijuana should be 21 – and not 18.
- François Legault, Quebec’s incoming premier, says he’ll follow through on a campaign promise to raise the province’s minimum age to buy and possess cannabis from 18 to 21. Coming just 11 days before legalization, the move would need a last-minute legislative change to take effect. The change would move Quebec from having one of the lowest cannabis ages in the country to the highest — the minimum age will be 19 in most provinces. Is it practical at this point?
- Also in Quebec: Many municipalities, like Quebec City and Lévis, are banning public consumption. (As happened in Halifax, several local councils in Quebec started out debating a cannabis bylaw and ended up with sweeping restrictions on tobacco as well.)
- Transport minister Marc Garneau confirms that Canadians will be able to take up to 30 grams of cannabis with them on domestic flights. (This is sometimes described as a “small amount,” but really isn’t.) Why would you want to? Well, provincial laws typically don’t allow residents to order pot from outside the province, but will allow them to bring it with them. One thing you must absolutely never do, though, it take your pot on an international flight. Signs reminding travellers of this are appearing in airports across the country, and Vancouver’s says it may install an amnesty box.
- Alberta will have 17 bricks-and-mortar cannabis stores opening on the morning of October 17: six in Edmonton, three in Medicine Hat and two in Calgary. Over the nest year, that’s expected to expand to a network of 250 stores.
- Nova Scotia’s only standalone cannabis store unveiled its sign this week in Halifax.
- Remember the Toronto company that wanted to hire people to test marijuana for $50 an hour? Ten days after the posting went up, they have almost 20,000 applications.
- New cannabis users under legalization will be risk-averse, middle-aged and interested in low-dose products, Deloitte predicts. (Microdosing has been popular in U.S. states that have legalized. That market included, we were told, included “moms with young children at home … looking to take the edge off.“)
- New Brunswick’s local governments want 44 per cent of provincial cannabis revenue, but there’s no deal in place, along with no clarity about who will form the provincial government.
WATCH: New Brunswick municipalities grapple with marijuana legalization
You wanted to know:
- How is the Ontario government going to safeguard the personal information it collects on its online ordering and delivery system until a brick and mortar store can open in April 2019? Second, who will have access to this information? Will U.S. Customs?
The question mentions Ontario, but the answer applies to all eight provinces, plus the Northwest Territories and Yukon, which will have a government-run online retail system (all of them except Manitoba and Saskatchewan).
The provinces have been very conscientious about making sure their ordering information (goods X have been paid for and should be shipped to customer Y at address Z) will be processed in Canada and not retained after it’s needed. IDs will be checked at the door, but no record will be kept of the customer’s identity.
The more difficult problem is the credit card data that’s created as part of an online transaction. Your credit card data is held on servers in the United States, where your data has no legal protection. The provinces have addressed this in different ways — Alberta and Nova Scotia may have the best solution, entering the transaction in such a way that it doesn’t clearly relate to cannabis. Nova Scotia cannabis purchases, for example, will be identified as ‘NSLC,’ the acronym of the province’s liquor stores.
Ontario and B.C. say they have a solution, but we haven’t seen it yet and they won’t say what it is. Quebec cannabis sales will be identified as SQDC, for the Société québécoise du cannabis.
- What’s the date for cannabis edibles/drinkables to be made available?
There’s been quite a lot of confusion about this.
Edibles that are pre-made as food products (everybody likes to talk about gummy bears) won’t be seen until some time next year, when the feds have had more time to write regulations.
However, cannabis-infused oils (in all provinces) and gel caps (in most provinces, that we’ve found) will be for sale on Day 1. So if you want a cannabis pumpkin spice latte, you couldbuy a pumpkin spice latte and drop some cannabis oil in it.
A caution, though — pay very careful attention to dosing. The oils that will be for sale are very concentrated products. A 90 ml bottle of oil will contain most of a year’s worth of daily microdoses.
Gel caps take a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Standard sizes will include 2.5 mg — more of a microdose — and 10mg. (They won’t be as nice as the high-end chocolate versions available in some U.S. states — the experience will be more … pharmaceutical — but will have the same effect.)
- Just wondering what the laws will be in regards to selling marijuana clones (live plants) to the public?
As far as the federal Cannabis Act is concerned, you’ll be able to buy live marijuana plants (no more than four per household) on the morning of Oct. 17.
The problem will be finding someone to sell them to you. Storing dried flower and gel caps is a fairly simple problem — caring for live plants is a more complicated one, and one that cannabis retailers seem to want to avoid, at least at first.
Given all the complexities of the early stages of legalization, it’s hard to blame them. (Seeds will be available in some provinces.)
In provinces with private-sector retail, it wouldn’t be surprising if some stores specialized in being cannabis nurseries as time goes on.
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