When Canada formally legalized recreational marijuana for adult consumers on October 17, 2018, it's likely that no one expected that the process would go entirely smoothly. Indeed, as the first G7 nation to make this regulatory shift, Canada was forging new legal pathways. Reports emerged in the immediate aftermath of legalization day that many marijuana retailers across the country had run out of product. This marked what was likely the first and certainly not the last hiccup in the legalization process. Below, we'll explore some potential and unexpected repercussions of Canada's decision to legalize cannabis.
A Shift in Youth Use?
Individuals and organizations that pushed back against the Canadian government's decision to legalize cannabis for adults often pointed to concerns about youth marijuana use as a reason to be hesitant. Per the Cannabis Act, the official legal basis for the regulatory change, youth violations of the law will be dealt with separately according to laws pertaining specifically to youth. Nonetheless, it's possible that, with many more Canadians accessing marijuana and other cannabis products on a regular (and legal) basis, that cannabis use among those not of legal age may end up increasing.
Potential for Large-Scale Health Impact
Although vape pens, edibles, and other non-smoke products relating to cannabis use have been on the rise in many parts of the world, the traditional method of consuming cannabis remains one involving smoke. For many concerned Canadians, legalization of recreational marijuana implies an increase in smoke, often in public places. In response, there have been motions by various provinces and individual organizations to enact smoking bans in public areas. It's possible that, by legalizing cannabis use, Canada may have inadvertently impacted its public health discourse in the process.
Branding and Marketing
Analysts watching the growing legal cannabis industry may speculate as to the impact of legalization on the cannabis market itself. It's possible that, as time goes on and cannabis producers establish themselves, particular brands and names may rise to the top. It's not difficult to imagine a scenario in which certain brands or strains of cannabis become associated with expensive, luxury tastes, while others become known for being readily accessible and affordable. One only need look to a somewhat analogous world for confirmation of this: alcohol. Alcohol products from beer and wine to hard liquor have seen intense stratification of this type, with branding and marketing playing a crucial role in defining the industry and different companies' levels of success therein.
Varieties of Cannabis Available
Before legalization, there was no regulation as to the types of cannabis strains sold on the illegal market. Given that the Canadian government is heavily involved in the warehousing of cannabis products and the distribution of those products to licensed retailers and through online shops, it's possible that the varieties of cannabis available to the consumer will change. What's unclear, though, is exactly how this might play out. On one hand, one can imagine the government limiting the number of strains it passes along from growers to retailers, thereby reducing the variety that individual consumers have access to. On the other hand, the development of a regulated industry could provide cannabis growers with an incentive to develop new strains, thereby enhancing the variety of products available on the market.
Legal cannabis in Canada remains very new. Exactly how the industry will grow and change over time is difficult to assess, even for experts in the field. It's likely that there will emerge certain winners and losers as time goes on, and that there will also be changes to the national cannabis landscape which the Cannabis Act did not account for.