Lead photo via Flickr user Vaska
Canada’s House of Commons is scheduled to begin a debate over legislation to legalize marijuana today, with lawmakers set to sort out the finer points of retail sales, distribution, and taxation under Bill C-45, the far-reaching act that would enable recreational cannabis access for millions of adults across America’s northern neighbor.
But with Prime Minister Trudeau and his administration still confident that state-approved mail order marijuana sales will begin by summer of 2018, Canada’s central government is already moving past legislative particulars. Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and Trudeau's pot czar (and former Toronto police chief) Bill Blair announced this week that the government would be allocating $36.4 million to a five-year-long educational campaign, aimed at teaching the country about safe cannabis consumption.
According to CTV News, the far-reaching campaign is front-loaded to spread as much information as possible at the start of legalization, with $22.5 million to be spent during the next two years, and $13.9 million to be expended over the following three years.
It's not yet clear what kind of content will be included in the half-decade-long ad campaign, but Taylor and Blair told reporters yesterday that the educational endeavor would target youth heavily, while also featuring information about drugged driving and other marijuana-induced safety issues.
For Blair, who has been championing a “boring” version of legalization since Trudeau proposed ending prohibition on the campaign trail in 2015, eliminating arbitrary penalties for cannabis possession and use will finally allow for a greater volume of fact-based conversations to emerge about the controversial plant.
“When the substance is a prohibited substance, when it’s illegal, most of that public education focuses on the legal consequences of breaking the law,” Blair said. “In a regulated environment it really enables parents, teachers, health professionals to begin to have conversations with young people [about] how they can make safer and healthier choices.”
Compounding the five-year $36.4 million plan, Health Canada has also been promised $9.6 million of the country’s 2017 federal budget for the government agency’s own marijuana education campaign.
Still, even with a huge chunk of funding ready to shift the national conversation from criminalization to education, the Great White North isn’t abandoning its marijuana-focused police forces. Over $247 million has already been set aside to assist law enforcement and border patrol agencies in the fight against any continued cannabis black market over the next five years, proving yet again that despite ambitious plans to legalize weed, marijuana’s long stigma means that more money will go towards arresting those who break the rules than to teaching people how to exist within them.