The future of recreational legal weed in Canada seems inevitable, if still too limited. While activists chafe at the regulations, the hope remains that a new legal market will make the industry better. But better for whom? Not for most people with cannabis convictions who were instrumental in pushing for legalization.
The “Cannabis Act” is still a vague and confusing document; it’s impossible to know what the government intends. From industrial farming to craft growers, the Liberals claim to see them all having a place. But who will actually grow when a “reasonable suspicion” of having broken a cannabis law is enough to deny a licence? Not the cannabis community.
Forgive Cannabis Convictions
Taken alone, stopping people convicted of crimes from making money for that activity sounds right. But stopping people who know how to do a legal thing from doing it because it was once illegal is ridiculous and unfair.
Restrictions and Race
And drug convictions aren’t representative of the population. Prohibition is racist. From the Opium Wars and anti-Asian sentiments to Anslinger driving fear of Mexican marijuana and (predominantly Black) jazz culture to pass the Marihuana Tax Act in the 1930s, prohibition was intentionally racist.
And it continues to punish people of colour more than whites. Equal use of marijuana (and therefore likelihood of holding) results in staggeringly higher chance of arrest for possession for Black Americans.
Even here, Black people are overrepresented in Canadian jails, and Asian people are overrepresented for drug crimes. Black boys and indigenous boys and girls are overrepresented in Ontario prisons. And cannabis is involved in more than half of completed Canadian drug cases.
Licenses and Liabilities
Obviously, the simplest first step towards a balanced legal recreational market is to ignore previous cannabis convictions. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re getting. And we’re not getting an objectively fair, clear-cut system, either.
What we’re getting is subjective per-case licensing. Cannabis Act, Part 3, Licences and Permits, Section 62:
Grounds for refusal (7) The Minister may refuse to issue, renew or amend a licence or permit if
(c) the applicant has contravened in the past 10 years a provision of this Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Food and Drugs Act or of any regulation made under this Act or any of those Acts;
(d) there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant has contravened in the past 10 years an order made under [these Acts]… (emphasis ours).
“… may refuse … if …” So the ministry’s refusal is not guaranteed. But the bill also doesn’t set out when the ministry should overlook cannabis convictions (and suspicions). Following how past drug laws and restrictions work, the subjective laws will apply more stringently to Canadians that aren’t white.
And stopping entire racial groups of the population from entering a field based on previous overrepresented, overly prescriptive, improper punishment is racist. Perhaps Trudeau likes to think this is automatically fixed because it’s 2017, but that’s not how systemic discrimination works.
Unless the Liberals work to make sure the laws they create impact the various demographics of the population equitably, the laws are not part of the solution.
Amnesty and Activism
The Liberals originally stuck to a “it’s illegal until it’s not” no grey-area hardline no amnesty for pot convictions. Now, however, Trudeau is suggesting past convictions for possession may get pardons. He kind of has to allow this air-vent after admitting his family bought his brother out of a cannabis conviction.
But these pardons will allow people who have only possessed marijuana to enter the industry, not those who’ve been busted actually working in the industry. Why not allow everyone in the current cannabis industry to become “legitimate” contributing members of society?
This amnesty won’t help busted budtenders, raided dispensary owners, or arrested activists that helped achieve legalization. Not to mention leaving out drug runners, street dealers, and subsistence growers. And it especially won’t help any of those people while raids and busts continue. With each bust more people with useful knowledge may be stopped from improving the industry they built.
Fees for Freedom
Or rather, they’ll be stopped from freely entering it. They can always pay for a record suspension half a decade down the road. And an expensive American waiver if they need to visit the States.
Why are the raids continuing at great cost, while we already have overcrowded jails and overworked courts? Despite claims of “stopping organized crime” the raids hurt local citizens more than they impact organized crime profits. Gangs make more money more easily with drugs like fentanyl.
The federal government, by continuing to insist we conform unthinkingly to current ridiculous cannabis laws, is creating a network of people who will need to clear their records to work in their established fields legally. What a lovely cash-crop in future for the federal government. That revenue boost will look good once voters forget the wasted expense of the raids.
And in the meantime the Health Canada LP oligarchy can continue.
Wealthy White Weed
The federal government continues to push prohibition until legalization. And they’ve introduced unbalanced legislation to apply per-case and subjectively. By doing so, the federal government will keep previously convicted poor people and people of colour from an industry that belongs to them.
Unsurprisingly, investors that have never been near marijuana, (mostly white) people that have avoided convictions, and people that can afford pardons and waivers will take over.
Like wealthy white people need another industry to dominate.