After taking a few days to digest the Liberals new Cannabis Act — all 131 pages of it — and then taking several more days to get over my initial anger and disbelief, it became pretty clear to me what happened. Justin Trudeau and some of his buddies were sitting around one night enjoying some wine, or perhaps some reefer, and someone joked “Why don’t we run the cannabis market?” And everyone laughed, but then the idea of just how to do it took hold.

The Liberals’ False Legalization

Fast forward to April 2017 and we now see that plan under the guise of the Liberals’ legalization bill. In fact it’s not true legalization, it’s nothing more than partial decriminalization with extreme prejudice to the cannabis community. A repeal of prohibition would strike cannabis from the law, not increase penalties and remove “probable cause” if you’re operating a motor vehicle. (As it stands now, to take a breath sample the police need “probable cause” such as the smell of alcohol or erratic driving, not so under the new proposed legislation — clearly against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)

Just prior to the Liberals unveiling their “legalization bill” Tony Clement rose in the House of Commons detailing a report in the Globe and Mail about Anne McLellan and other Liberal insiders’ ties to the Licensed Producers (LP) of the marijuana industry. McLellan was the chair of the Legalization Task Force.

In fact the LP investors are rife with past Liberal MPs, MLAs, and party insiders — more fingers pointing to a hostile takeover of the cannabis community rather than actual legalization.

Punishment Not Education

In reality what we actually have is a rewrite of cannabis laws allowing personal possession of very small amounts while severely increasing penalties in other areas; and by my eye it aims at punishment and heavy-handed regulations rather than education. That much is pretty clear when Part 1 is titled “Prohibitions, Obligations and Offences” and Division 1 covers, you guessed it, “Criminal Activities”.

Another thing I find troubling is the constant references to “illicit cannabis.” The act isn’t exactly clear on what that is, since it allows for growing four plants in the home (but only 100 cm in height, that’s 39.37 inches or just over 3 feet).

Other scary sections deal with forfeiture of property and they’re pretty extensive. I’m betting they will be looking to seize assets you might have if you’ve been in the game for any length of time, and acquired or have a thriving cannabis-based business. They may come sniffing around looking for ways to “legally” walk in and take what you worked so hard for.

False Positive Impairment Testing

Another red flag is the section dealing with impairment. This bill will give police the power to obtain a sample from anyone operating a motor vehicle without probable cause. This could mean a saliva swab, breathalyzer test, or perhaps even a blood sample. (And who’s to say what will become of these samples, will they be used to create a DNA database?)

These tests only show the presence of cannabis, and do not test for impairment or when you last ingested or smoked the ganja. Also, if you are on a host of different cold medications you could test positive for cannabinoid metabolites with the saliva swab currently being used in Australia.

No Promoting Products

Reading into the section covering promotion, and well basically there is none unless you’re a Health Canada licensed producer or if it’s for artistic value. It will be illegal to make money from pot advertising or even symbolism; under this new legislation you could go to jail for making money selling t-shirts with pot leaves on them, unless you’re an LP.

More Questions and More Challenges

This legislation will essentially give the police carte blanche over cannabis users and consumers. As usual, the police will be selective about wasting the Court’s time, but this is a slippery slope to be headed on.

The big question still remains what the individual provinces will do, as many of the fine details will be left to them: age limits, where it will be sold and who sells it, price, taxes, and I’m betting THC limits, to say nothing of edibles and concentrates, or if there will be new licences for smoking lounges. So many questions and so few answers other than “do as we say or you will go to jail,” and in this author’s eyes that is not legalization.

I will tell you this, legalization should not involve gearing up for another round of both costly and time consuming court challenges; we should be past that by now. I guess it’s not enough to be a liar, crooked, and corrupt when you can be a drug lord too.

(Feature Image of Brent Ray Fraser by SJade Creatives for Twelve High Chicks.)