High expectations: three potential impacts on legalized marijuana in Revelstoke

What will the impact of legalized marijuana be on Revelstoke, a ski resort town that fills up with international visitors, especially in the winter months? New Mountaineer columnist Robyn Goldsmith, a Revelstoke lawyer, explains some of the legal ramifications of the new Liberal leader's promise to legalize it.

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Cannabis plants. Photo: James St. John via Flickr Creative Commons Licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party cruised to victory last week, but as the smoke clears, they’ll have to put their minds to how they’ll fulfill their campaign promises. Prime Minister Trudeau’s first campaign promise was the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

What legalized marijuana would look like in practice is unclear. Prime Minister-designate Trudeau has stated that he is uncomfortable with the idea of marijuana being available in corner stores, like cigarettes. Instead, will we have marijuana specific dispensaries? Or will marijuana be available in liquor stores? However the proposed change unfolds, there will certainly be changes visible in our community.

Provincial or municipal prohibitions

Criminal law and drug prohibitions are set at a federal level, but provinces set their own age limits for controlled substances, and could set strict and prohibitive regulations.

Robyn Goldsmith is a Revelstoke lawyer who is contributing a new column in the Mountaineer that will focus on legal matters affecting the community. Photo: Contributed by Robyn Goldsmith
Robyn Goldsmith is a Revelstoke lawyer who is contributing a new column in the Mountaineer that will focus on legal matters affecting the community. Photo: Contributed by Robyn Goldsmith

The municipal government will also have a say in how marijuana could look in Revelstoke. It would be within their purview to establish bans on smoking in public, for example, or within a certain distance of schools, hospitals, or daycares.

Policing

Prime Minister-designate Trudeau has said that we will likely be looking at more emphasis on cracking down on driving under the influence, and of course just as with alcohol and tobacco, prohibitions on selling to minors.

The illegal trade in marijuana won’t magically cease immediately upon legalization, and the police will no doubt continue to crack down on unauthorized distributors. However, those dealing in marijuana illegally might be in as much trouble with the Canada Revenue Agency as with the police, as the government will be looking for a boost in tax revenue from the newly legalized product.

Local economy

Legalization could mean a new local economy around the growth and sale of marijuana. It is a potentially lucrative commodity, and one that will attract tourists. New laws could enable the (legitimate) establishment of smaller producers, as the current medical marijuana growth framework is a formidable obstacle for anyone without significant financial backing.

It is likely, however, that the controls around recreational marijuana will maintain the strict restrictions on growth and sales that we see in medical marijuana production and tobacco production. But who’s to say — we could eventually see a restructuring of the market to allow for small scale or craft producers, much the way we have with liquor in recent years.

For marijuana enthusiasts, the wheels of change will be slow. Developing the regulatory framework will be a cumbersome and expensive project.

Whether or not you welcome the change with open lungs, it looks like legalized marijuana is on the way, and time will tell what effect that has on Revelstoke and its local economy.

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