Regulating Cannabis the Canadian Way

by Calum Armstrong


At the end of February, a delegation of policymakers led by Volteface travelled to Toronto and Ottawa to pick the brains of their Canadian counterparts.

Eager to learn more about Justin Trudeau’s plans to legally regulate cannabis, the delegation met with former chief of police Bill Blair, who the PM has tasked with heading the project.

The Spectator has published Danny Kruger’s reflections on the trip, and the lessons learnt from the delegation’s consultation with Bill Blair.

In the article, Kruger, a former advisor to David Cameron during his time as Prime Minister, asks Blair how legalising cannabis would restrict access to the drug:

Bill explains: ‘Cannabis use is endemic in our society. It’s a massive market and we’re simply not managing it. Legalisation for adults means we can regulate supply and put our law enforcement resources where we need them: policing the minors’ market and going after the really dangerous drugs that kill people.’

Bill complains that across Canada the police have given up enforcing the law. In big cities the sale and possession of pot is effectively decriminalised, giving criminals an open and unregulated market. ‘It’s the worst of both worlds,’ he says: lots of weed and lots of crime.

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Kruger (pictured above with the delegation and Bill Blair) describes a visit to one of the many illegal cannabis dispensaries that have sprung up in Toronto and other cities across Canada:

When we get inside I see, through a fug of weed smoke, the big jars of grass and a range of exotic products: oils, liquids for vaping, all sorts of edibles. Most people are buying to take away. On low sofas at the back of the shop a dozen dismal stoners lie about smoking joints and pipes. It’s like a Victorian opium den with ice hockey on the TV.

In response to the issue raised, considered alongside the cases of the equally iniquitous ‘cannabis tourism’ regimes in place in Colorado and California, Blair counters:

‘I call these the “Let’s get the party started” places. I don’t want a party in Canada. I want less people smoking cannabis — and I don’t want to glamorise it so kids think it’s cool.’

Kruger appears taken with Blair’s approach, identifying therein a framework which could easily fit into the Conservative political agenda back in the UK:

Perhaps Canada’s approach will appeal to our own dour Prime Minister. Cannabis use is endemic in British society too, including in the just-managing towns outside the metropolises which Theresa May wants to help. She has already signalled her concern about the crisis in young people’s mental health. The illegal cannabis trade is a major contributor to this crisis. A brave step would be to commission a report looking at the impact on young people’s wellbeing of drugs — including the effect of illegality, and the potential for a regulated market. As the campaigning journalist Mike Power recently suggested in a paper for the thinktank Volteface, this market could be entirely online, without Canada’s horrid high-street dispensaries.

Kruger and Steve Moore, Director of Volteface, are guests on this weeks Spectator podcast, where they debate the merits of the Canadian model of regulation with Peter Hitchens.

Steve Moore has also shared his reflections on the study visit to Canada: ‘Ten Things I Learned in Canada Last Week’.

Read Danny’s article here.

Calum Armstrong is Staff Writer and Editor at VolteFace. Tweets @vf_calum

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