It isn’t challenging to find three signs of cannabis stigma in Canada. Canada never legalized cannabis because the war on drugs is immoral or because people have the right to consume a nontoxic plant.
Canadian cannabis legalization was and is still about “public health and safety.”
But it’s clear from these three signs that cannabis legalization was more about lining the pockets of a few select players and a public sector that lives off the taxpayer.
3rd Cannabis Stigma: Excise Taxes
Nothing says cannabis stigma better than charging excise taxes on a constitutionally-protected medicine.
But even if you could argue that certain goods and services should be subject to a “sin” tax, how it works in the cannabis industry is nonsensical.
Bureaucrats expected cannabis to sell for $10 per gram. Unlike excise taxes in other industries, producers must pay the sin taxes on cannabis, not retail.
So instead of paying 10% on the finished product, efficient cannabis producers can pay up to 45%. The system works so that the more efficient you are, the more excise taxes you have to pay.
Since legalization in 2018, the Canadian cannabis industry has forked over $15.1 billion in tax revenue. $2.9 billion came from sales and excise taxes.
Far from viewing excise taxes as a “stigma,” the Canadian government (whether represented by the red, blue, or orange team) will continue to take advantage of the cannabis industry.
2nd Cannabis Stigma: Public Health Rules
Nowhere is cannabis stigma in Canada more prevalent than in allowing public health bureaucrats to make significant decisions. Choices better left to the people who actually grow, buy and sell cannabis.
Whether it’s personal possession limits, THC limits, plain-packaging and anti-marketing rules, the criminal regulation of CBD or other arbitrary decisions better left to the consumer and producer.
The fact remains: Canada’s cannabis industry has a public health problem. And cannabis stigma at Health Canada is a big part of that problem.
Despite the name “public health,” these bureaucrats don’t care about medical cannabis patients. They are attempting to rid Canada of a medical cannabis program.
“Public health” means controlling and regulating you. Your decisions, your choices, your ethics, your medicine, your diet, your life.
And these people dare to call themselves progressive. There is nothing “progressive” about expanding the scope and influence of the state.
If Canada had legalized in the 1990s, the Chrétien framework would have been statist. But it at least would have included some common sense.
1st Cannabis Stigma: Expunging Records & Illicit Markets
Legalization is about expunging criminal records and permitting growers and vendors to join the legal regime.
Suppose you voted Liberal in 2015 because they said they would legalize cannabis. Would you have still made the same decision knowing now what they meant by “legalization?”
- That the Liberals wouldn’t legalize the BC Bud culture, and in fact, incorrectly categorized it as violent, organized crime.
- That no expungements would be made. Former cops and politicians will cash in on legal weed, but not the nonviolent “criminals” still behind bars or those who face restrictions based on their past with cannabis.
- That an entirely new plastics industry would develop and create more than enough waste to offset any benefit of banning plastic straws and single-use shopping bags
- That recreational cannabis would be an excuse to undermine and eventually eradicate the medical cannabis program.
- That we’d have a 10mg THC limit on edibles
- That veiled window coverings and plain-packaging would be the retail norms? (If that doesn’t increase cannabis stigma, then what does?)
- That cannabis producers wouldn’t be able to build brands, and market like beer, liquor, and wine companies do
Many American states that have legalized cannabis also included expungement of criminal records. After all, that is what legalization is about. Nothing says “cannabis stigma” more than not expunging nonviolent criminal records for weed.
What Happened with Legal Weed in Canada?
What Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party did was corporatize cannabis. The only silver lining to Canada’s legalization is the home-growing aspect.
But even that is handicapped by two facts: there was considerable debate about allowing home-growing. Second, it’s unlikely they would have approved home-growing if it wasn’t for the Allard injunction.
The Allard injunction gives patients a constitutional right to reasonable access to cannabis. This includes home-growing. Without it, would the Liberals have extended the same courtesy to recreational growers?
Quebec hasn’t. Canada’s French-speaking province has the most strict regime in the country. Edibles are more-or-less banned, and the courts have upheld their home-growing ban (so far).
It isn’t difficult to find three signs of cannabis stigma in Canada. The rules around legalization cause new stigmas and maintain older ones.
Canada’s cannabis legalization is not the model for the world to follow. Just as Justin Trudeau is not the kind of political leader other countries should strive for.
People have a fundamental right to their bodies. Many people on the left recognize this when the topic is abortion. People on the right recognize this when it comes to vaccine mandates.
But once you bring up drugs, even a “soft” drug like cannabis, all rationality disappears. The left has no problem adhering to “public health” mandates even if they defy common sense. And the right has no problem demonizing drugs, even medical marvels like cannabis.
Canada’s cannabis stigma is still alive and well. It’s a lonely place for the freedom-loving toker.