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Tornto police raided the Good Weeds Lounge in Jaunary after it started selling marijuana hits and related products illegally. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Tornto police raided the Good Weeds Lounge in Jaunary after it started selling marijuana hits and related products illegally. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Globe editorial

Ottawa should remind people that legal pot will mean more law, not less Add to ...

The Canadian Police Association made a reasonable request this week when it asked the Trudeau government to remind everyone that recreational marijuana is still an illegal substance. For more than a year, so-called marijuana “dispensaries” have been popping up in cities across the country, selling pot and pot-filled products in open violation of the Criminal Code. The pace of new openings has only increased since the election of the Liberals, who promised to legalize marijuana.

Police say these days some Canadians are shocked to learn that it is actually illegal to buy and sell pot recreationally. And it’s no wonder. Canada’s laws have been evolving rapidly since 2000, when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that marijuana must be available to people who need it for medical purposes. Today, it is legal for people with a medical prescription to order pot from federally authorized suppliers, who deliver it in the mail. But it is still against the law to buy, sell, grow or use it for fun and games.

At the same time, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington states have legalized recreational marijuana use, altering the drug-culture landscape in the United States and, by proximal osmosis, in Canada. Canadian police themselves have called for the decriminalization of pot possession within the past year, as they are fed up pushing such a minor offence through the justice system. And Justin Trudeau? He says he smoked the stuff while serving in Parliament – he confessed to a crime, basically – and Canadians made him Prime Minister.

So, yes, it’s confusing out there. The ground has been shifting for 16 years. We are on the cusp of legalization, and people who see a dollar to be made are impatient. The pot market will be hugely lucrative, and they want to get a foot in the door.

Which is why Ottawa ought to issue a forceful reminder for Canadians to wait until the law is changed before acting. Pot is going to be legalized, and it should be – but the new regime will not be a free-for-all. As with alcohol and cigarettes, that means regulation to keep pot out of the hands of minors, taxation and public education campaigns to discourage use.

Ottawa has to hurry up and come up with a plan for legalization. It also has to cool those who think legalization means the absence of law. Canada’s pot rules should be anything but.

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